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Yesterday’s cars are ready for tomorrow

By James Pugh | Bridgnorth | News | Published:

The skills needed to give a future to classic cars are dwindling – but a new course has been established aimed at reversing that trend.

Ben Morris, Ian Warrilow and Harry Ruffell-Hazel

Restoring a classic car is a real labour of love, requiring a huge amount of knowledge and skill.

Even though technology has transformed every sector imaginable, vintage cars restorations still require a lot of human – and moreover – skilled hands.

The problem is the UK is faced with an engineering skills shortage, with many companies suffering from a lack of both quantity and quality when it comes to applicants.

To help meet the demand and prevent traditional automotive craft skills being lost forever, a new apprenticeship course is being launched in the region.

Apprentice training at the Marches Centre of Manufacturing and Technology

The Marches Centre of Manufacturing & Technology (MCMT), which operates two state-of-the-art training centres in Bridgnorth and Shrewsbury, will initially be offering 15 people the opportunity to study a Heritage Engineering Technician apprenticeship.

The three-year course will equip individuals with a host of skills and knowledge used in the restoration of classic cars, vintage racing and commercial vehicles by combining classroom teaching with the opportunity to apply their learning on real-life tasks, including rebuilding a classic car from scratch.

“It is anticipated that we need 1,000 heritage engineering apprentices to offset the number of specialists that are retiring, before we lose these valuable skills forever,” says Ian Warrilow, MCMT course tutor and a specialist in heritage engineering at restoration specialists Classic Motor Cars (CMC).

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“The sector is an unsung hero of manufacturing and accounts for £5 billion of UK GDP, whether it is in classic car restoration or making sure vintage racing vehicles are kept in prime condition. Our course at MCMT has been designed by experts and is ideal for young people or mature learners looking to train in an exciting career that could see them work on some of the world’s most famous cars.

“We are currently looking for eight more individuals to fill the cohort and also for firms involved in heritage to come forward and back what we are trying to do so we can ensure that every participant has a job before they start."

Inside the Marches Centre of Manufacturing and Technology

Ian has worked in the industry for five decades, been lecturing for 14 years and restored over 20 classic cars.

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The Heritage Engineering Technician apprenticeship will be delivered at MCMT’s 36,000 sq ft facility in Bridgnorth, just a stone’s throw away from CMC.

Learners will be taken through the fundamentals of vehicle construction and technology, servicing and diagnosis of heritage vehicles and familiarisation with obsolete technology and systems.

They will also be trained in more modern manufacturing techniques, such as mechanical and electrical skills, CNC machining and metrology to help them develop heritage components through reverse engineering.

Skills the apprenticeships will gain range from the correct use of materials, tools and equipment to hand seaming, joining materials and understanding how you can find solutions without having any drawings available.

Seven people have already signed-up to take part in the national course, with four companies also showing their backing by offering full-time positions, including CMC and Valley Motorsport.

Ben Morris, Ian Warrilow and Harry Ruffell-Hazel

“The course, which will deliver a Level 2 and Level 3 apprenticeship, will take between 42-48 months and will be run on a residential basis with attendance one week in four," Ian adds.

Harry Ruffell-Hazel is one of the first apprentices to sign up for the course after recently completing his Level 2 Light Vehicle Maintenance and securing a job at CMC.

The 19-year-old, who is already helping to restore a Lancia Aurelia, has set its sights on securing a career in automotive trim and believes this course will give him the perfect opportunity to hone his skills whilst learning from some of the best in the business.

“Classic cars are beautiful and to know I can play a role in restoring them to their natural glories is great,” Harry says.

“It’s all about learning new skills and making sure I get access to lots of different parts of the business with my training. That will make me a more rounded employee and means I can have an immediate positive impact at Classic Motor Cars.”

Harry will be joined by Ben Morris, who has swapped university for a more vocational approach to securing his dream job working with cars.

He too has been appointed by CMC and is keen to work on the mechanical side of heritage engineering, using his natural passion and practical skills to build on a CV that already features his own Chevrolet Camaro.

“I was doing Motorsport Engineering at university, but there wasn’t enough practical content for my liking, so I jumped at the chance to head over to MCMT. This way I get to immerse myself in everyday activities as well as learning from tutors that have been working in the industry for over 30 years,” Ben adds.

James Pugh

By James Pugh
@JamesP_Star

Shropshire Star Business and Farming Editor.

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