School of Thought is a new initiative created to raise awareness within schools of the automotive industry as a viable career choice. NBRA spoke to Dave Reece, one of the organisation’s founders, to find out more.
The skills shortage is a well-documented problem within the automotive sector and particularly within the aftermarket. A number of industry organisations are working incredibly hard to get ahead of the issue before the consequences are truly realised. However, sometimes a problem can only be solved by complete dedication, and School of Thought might just be the initiative to accomplish exactly that.
Founded by Dave Reece and Julie Eley in 2019, School of Thought is a project created to raise the automotive industry’s profile amongst schools and to get pupils enthused about its wide variety of career opportunities.
Dave Reece explained, “We’re all well aware of the ‘skills shortage’, but I view it more as a ‘generation gap’. By this, I mean that we as an industry stopped concentrating on young people many years ago when apprenticeships didn’t receive the recognition that they desperately needed. And, this is something that needs to change.
“School of Thought began after I was invited to talk about the automotive industry at a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) event at a school in Neath. The reaction from the pupils was phenomenal. However, after that event, and following meetings with the STEM Project, it became clear that our industry was being severely underrepresented, struggling to find the right people to present the boundless opportunities that are available.”
Dave and Julie subsequently became STEM Ambassadors, and from that point on, started to make contact with their industry connections including NBRA to discuss the topic of school engagement. It was from these meetings that School of Thought came into fruition.
Dave continued, “We realised that to be an ambassador for the industry wasn’t taking up a huge amount of time. Many of the events we went to were during the school lunch breaks or assemblies which led us to realise that we could get more people involved now that we knew what we were facing. This began the hunt for School of Thought Ambassadors.”
By the end of 2019, School of Thought had roughly 35 ambassadors from all corners of the industry. Unfortunately, COVID-19 hit soon after and put a stop to the school presentations, but that’s not to say the School for Thought team stopped growing the ideas behind the project.
The organisation now has a number of education sector partners (STEM, Youth Employment UK and Career Wales, to name three), signed over 100 hundred ambassadors, and is in talks with government on how best to refocus the drive to bring in new faces into the industry. We have also connected with over 30,000 students during the COVID-19 pandemic with virtual events run by local STEM Hubs and Career Wales.
Our ambassadors are amazing and come from all walks of life and we have brilliant young ambassadors with a real passion for the industry who will be out there telling their stories.
School of Thought would like to assist any NBRA members in connecting with Schools and Colleges in their local area and would also welcome any NBRA members that would like to sign up as Ambassadors and show the talent out there in schools and colleges what opportunities there are in the industry buy promoting the industry and also their own companies.
We all have stories to tell about our journey in the industry and we all have different experiences of how we progressed. So, if you are passionate about what you do, and would like to share your experiences with the future generation of automotive professionals, the team at School of Thought would love to hear from you.
Dave concluded, “We’re working hard to grow this programme and help change the perception of our industry; only then can we change its future.”