Trainees' top marques

Martin Whittaker

Soundwell College has signed a deal to teach apprentices for Porsche. Martin Whittaker reports.

IT HAS to be every motor mechanic's dream - to get under the bonnet of a sleek new Pounds 40,000 Porsche Boxster.

That dream has come true for students at Soundwell College, Bristol, who are learning to care for some of the world's most exclusive sports cars.

The college's transport technology division has won a major contract with Porsche Cars Great Britain Ltd to train the company's apprentice technicians.

Apprentices attend for eight weeks a year over three years, gaining NVQ level 3 and a BTEC national certificate. The first wave has just completed its initial block and a new intake of 16 begin next month.

They will learn the ropes on a Porsche Boxster, a Porsche 944 and a Porsche 911 in the college's workshops.

The emphasis is on IT training and electronics using the division's state-of-the-art computer-aided learning system. Every trainee is issued with a PC and can access this system via the Internet.

As well as Porsche, Soundwell transport division has also won contracts to run modern apprenticeship schemes for Royal Mail, Lex Autocentres, LDV and Partco, bringing a total of 181 new trainees.

The college already runs programmes for other motor industry giants including Leyland Daf, Mazda and Vauxhall.

Soundwell's Pounds 3.5 million transport technology division was built eight years ago and has been hailed as a centre of excellence.

There are plans to add new workshops at a cost of Pounds 1.3 million, and talks with the University of the West of England to provide routes into degree courses.

Faculty director Peter Birkett said winning the Porsche contract was a real coup. "It's a partnership agreement. We provide highly committed and highly skilled staff, dedicated workshops and classrooms and they provide us with the products for training their apprentices.

"As people we're judged by the company we keep and as a faculty we are judged by the customers we serve. I can only believe that we are doing the right thing."

Before the Soundwell College course, Porsche dealerships sent their apprentices to various FE colleges offering differing standards of training.

Apprentice technician Greg Brennan, 17, works for a Porsche dealership in Chiswick, West London, and has just completed the first block of his training at Soundwell after being transferred from Kingston College.

"I think it's great,'' he said. "`It's a lot better than the other college where I was only doing one day a week. Now I get into the workshop a lot more - in Kingston you were normally in the classroom."

Martin Rose, technical training instructor for Porsche Cars Great Britain Ltd, said advances in motoring technology had brought an increasing need for training courses to be standardised.

"In the last three or four years as our product became more and more complex, more and more electronically-based with computer systems, the calibre of the people we need is becoming higher.

"We effectively needed to start changing the way they train from the beginning. We looked at a number of colleges and Soundwell shone out."

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Martin Whittaker

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