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In celebration of National Apprenticeship Week from 5th - 11th February, we will be sharing the inspiring stories from apprentices working for RRG currently. Today we hear from Mercedes Lopez who works as a Vehicle Technician at the RRG Kia Bury Service Centre.
Becoming a technician was never initially the life plan. I was raised by a self professed petrolhead and spent many an hour tinkering in the garage with my dad; in front of the TV every other Sunday watching the MotoGP, and attending local car shows. I always loved cars and bikes, however I always leant towards a more academic path whilst in education.
When I did finally decide to pursue a career within the automotive industry, my parents were massive influences, and my biggest supporters. My tutors at college also sang my praises and encouraged me to apply for apprenticeship positions after achieving my Level 2.
At school, my strength was modern foreign languages, as it seemed to come very easy to me, and I really enjoyed learning new languages. I achieved GCSE's in both Maths and English, which were a requirement for my apprenticeship program. I attended college to get my Level 2 in vehicle maintenance and repair, as I figured this would be an advantage when coming to apply for jobs.
In the August, I had a face to face informal chat with the Aftersales manager after coming across the vacancy online. From there he offered me a weeks trial. I attended, and loved it, and the rest is history! They were happy with me, and I knew this was a place I could see myself working and progressing. They enrolled me on the Kia apprenticeship program, which included full time work within the workshop and block releases over a period of 3 years to gain my qualifications. I finished with a Level 3, became a certified technician. I also gained the opportunity to achieve a qualification for electric and hybrid vehicles.
There were hurdles, especially in my situation. Not only was I a female attempting to forge her path in a male dominated space, I was also much older than your average apprentice! I didn't start at RRG until I was 27 years old! These factors seemed to hinder me with my applications to other manufacturers/groups, however the feeling and encouragement I got from the people at Kia, gave me so much confidence and eased my anxieties.
My favourite part about being an apprentice was definitely the journey. From having a really basic understanding and skill set, to being taught about all different systems and techniques, the personal progression was just immense. Even though at times I didn't feel it, when I reminisce about where I started, to where I am now, I feel such a huge sense of achievement and belonging. I've come such a long way. I now have my MOT testing licence and I am currently training towards my expert level. There's so much scope for advancing and there's always something to be learnt.
My advice for people considering an apprenticeship, would be that it's well worth the investment. Learning whilst you work, with all the advantages of being hands on, plus the technical training, is really a recipe for success. You're supported the entire time, and get to work with like minded people. The automotive industry is exciting, and with the fast development of hybrid and electric vehicles, the apprentices of today will have a huge advantage as I'm sure the training programs will be taking into account the shifts in current trends and technologies.
I've been with RRG for 7 years, and I know I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be, and it's all thanks to taking those first steps as an apprentice.