8 min reading

How you can reap the rewards of taking on an apprentice

High Performance Engineering

Hiring an apprentice can be hugely beneficial for both the individual and the business – just ask John McNally. 

John, owner of Aylesbury vehicle maintenance and bodywork specialist TP Smart Repairs, puts apprentices at the heart of his company and strongly believes the firm would not be the thriving business it is today without them. 

“By training an apprentice from the start you are teaching them the processes, procedures and how the quality of the repair needs to be done which is a massive benefit for the business,” he says. 

“You need to put the time and effort in to make sure these people are your future.” 

Building a career path 

Having trained as an apprentice himself, John quickly built a career in the motor trade, eventually becoming managing director of three Volkswagen sites before setting up TP Smart Repairs in 2020 with his former apprentice, Tommy Phillips. It now has 16 staff including four apprentices. 

One of the most recent recruits is 17-year-old Callum May who was put in touch with TP Smart Repairs through the Buckinghamshire Skills Hub team and Mandeville School in Aylesbury.  This was led by Julia Bond, Buckinghamshire Skills Hub Employer Engagement and Enterprise Coordinator. 

Callum, who has ADHD, was at risk of dropping out of education with few qualifications, could potentially get in trouble with the police and needed direction.  

Julia Bond set up a meeting with Callum, his teacher, his mother and John and Tommy from TP Smart Repairs and he started a work experience programme with the company. The team could immediately see he was interested in working with cars and had the right attitude.  

Julia explains: “Callum started on two days a week which quickly became four days and after two months he started his apprenticeship as a body panel beater with the Thatcham Research Automotive Academy employed as the training provider.”   

The apprenticeship process 

He attends the academy on block release for a week at a time with TP Smart Repairs paying for accommodation and living expenses and as well as learning about the motor trade, he has picked up functional skills in English and Maths. Back at the workshop, Callum is mentored by a recent former apprentice. 

John says: “I asked Callum what he would say if he returned to Mandeville School and spoke to students who find themselves in a similar situation.  

“He explained that he has two younger siblings at home and could see that being a positive role model to them was one of the most important things he could do. 

“He agreed he’d been walking a tightrope, and his future could have tipped either way. He knew he owed a massive debt of gratitude to his mother for pushing him towards the opportunity and also to Maggie Brunt, Careers Leader at Mandeville School, for picking up the phone to me.  

“Obviously I never met the “before” Callum, but I suspect those that have would be staggered by the transformation in such a short period of time. He is a very pleasant, articulate young person who made eye contact and spoke enthusiastically.” 

Embracing challenges positively 

In fact, John, who is dyslexic, could see a lot of himself in Callum who has already set his sights on running his own business one day. 

“As a dyslexic person I wasn't very good at school - I struggled with reading and writing.   

I started my career as an apprentice mechanic and qualified as a master technician.  

“When you have dyslexia, you look at things in a different way, but I found it to be a superpower. I understood Callum suffered from ADHD so I explained my dyslexia to him and said he could make a difference by finding his superpower.   

“After the second week of him working with us, his mentor came to me and said he’d never met a kid like him. He’s polite and focuses on a task until the job is done - that's his superpower which is fantastic for any business. 

“I want to provide people like Callum with the opportunity to learn a trade and develop a purpose and real prospects in life. Aside from the benefits this creates for the business, this is why I became involved with apprenticeships.” 

TP Smart Repairs carries out maintenance, bodywork and mechanical repairs on cars, vans and motorbikes. Customers include leasing companies, retailers and firms with fleets ranging from one van to four and a half thousand vehicles.  

Growing your business  

The apprenticeship programme is also a way of growing the team organically, overcoming recruitment issues.   

John explains: “Training apprentices eliminates substantial recruitment fees and is great for quality control. We look after our apprentices like family and that breeds loyalty. 

“It provides them with a solid future, a career and a path to future success. Some of our apprentices like Callum wouldn't have had any other opportunity.” 

TP Smart Repairs, is now in the process of hiring an apprentice for front of house and is seeking others to work as vehicle damage assessors as it expands. 

John says: “I’m looking to buy a 25,000 sq ft workshop and sublet parts to other auto businesses. They will have units at a reduced price on the condition they employ an apprentice.

“I would also like to create an apprentice training centre. A lot of businesses are scared of taking on apprentices as they believe there’s too much paperwork and takes too much time but it’s actually an easy process.” 

Finding the right support

John Browning, Local Skills Improvement Plan Manager, adds: “John, Tommy and the TP Smart Repairs team are an outstanding example of how apprentices can be of huge benefit to a business as well as the young people involved. 

“We are there to support companies and can help find the right candidates for the job so we would urge anyone interested to get in touch with Buckinghamshire Business First.” 

Want to learn more about hiring an apprentice? 

Contact our Business Support Team to get more information. Call 01494 927130 or email: BusinessSupport@bbf.uk.com 

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