Wayne Grewal, lecturer in automotive engineering at the MIRA Technology Institute, talks about how motor vehicle apprentices are being supported during the coronavirus crisis.
Wayne Grewal was the youngest manager at Jaguar/Aston Martin when he was promoted from the paint shop at the age of 21. After a career in the automotive engineering sector, Wayne is now helping apprentices at the MIRA Technology Institute (MTI) to take their important first steps in the industry.
Supporting around 20 apprentices employed by a large and small businesses across the Midlands including HORIBA MIRA, Triumph and the Alvis Car Company, Wayne supervises and assesses their work ensuring that they acquire the essential engineering skills that they need to provide a solid foundation for their future careers.
Wayne’s way of working, and those of all his colleagues at the MTI, changed suddenly and dramatically last month when new social distancing measures resulted in the temporary closure of the training centre and a move to remote learning online. Wayne explained that he had been away on holiday when the crisis broke. He said, “When I left Birmingham airport three weeks ago, it was as busy as usual, but by the time we left Alicante a week later, there was nobody there but the border patrol staff. If I had booked for ten days instead of seven, we may not have been able to get home.
“When I got back to work, I had about two days to make sure that all my apprentices’ learning resources were online for the months ahead, and my manager John Marvin urged us to contact them all to let them know about the new arrangements. Now I keep in touch with apprentices by phone and using Smart Assessor. I am also getting to grips with using Smart Room technology so that I can bring the group together virtually. I think this will be good for morale and help them cope in these difficult circumstances.”
The apprentices that Wayne looks after study at both Levels 2 and 3 on a mix of apprenticeship frameworks and standards. Wayne is working with new standards in auto care and maintenance and repair for the first time and his apprentices are progressing well. They attend the MTI on a day release basis where they have access to state-of-the-art workshops as well as high-tech classroom spaces.
The MTI is the result of a unique collaboration led by North Warwickshire and South Leicestershire College, and its partners, HORIBA MIRA, Coventry University, the University of Leicester, and Loughborough University. Built with £9.5m investment from the UK Government’s Local Growth Fund via the Leicester and Leicester Enterprise Partnership Limited (LLEP), the MTI is a specialist facility designed specifically to train the next generation of engineers in the latest automotive technology. The MTI is helping to create specialist skills in emerging technology areas including electrification and driverless cars.
Since it first opened its doors in 2018, the MTI has welcomed over 8,000 students and delegates. This includes over 630 studying for accredited qualifications from a Level 1 Institute of the Motor Industry certificate up to Masters’ degrees, and nearly 250 following apprenticeships at all levels.
Wayne, who joined the college around six months ago, is currently working with Triumph to develop a specialist apprenticeship standard in motorcycle maintenance and repair. Depending on how the current coronavirus crisis affects the industry, he hopes to interest other motorcycle manufacturers and launch the new standard in January 2021.
MTI apprentices includes Callam Roberts who, at the age of just 18, has recently returned from a month-long trip to Japan where he helped Alvis technicians to adapt some original vehicles owned by a high net worth individual. Alvis manufactures its 4.3 litre in-line six-cylinder engine from the original 1936 drawing, maintaining its period character while introducing modern technology and ensuring that it is emission compliant. The Alvis engine has an overhead valve mono-block construction with a 92mm bore x 110mm stroke giving it a capacity of 4387cc delivering powerful acceleration.
Wayne said, “Our apprentices get to work with some fantastic companies, and this was a great opportunity for Callam. Despite his ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorder, Callam is a fantastic apprentice. He is very bright and so precise in his work. He is an asset to Alvis and looks set to progress well there.”
Meanwhile, Wayne is now getting to grips with life under lockdown and finds himself as busy as ever. He said, “Most of my apprentices are continuing to work although some will spend some time on furlough. However, they can continue their studies even if they are on furlough so I will be making sure that they have plenty to do. We have also set up a two-hour online drop-in slot every weekday including specific teaching days for groups on distance learning, so that apprentices can chat to us about any concerns. I am keen to look after their wellbeing while they are working on their own.”
Wayne is looking forward to seeing his apprentices progress as others have done in the past and says that watching their careers is one of the reasons why he finds his job so rewarding.