We recently caught up with Richard Hutchins, who is currently in his 19th year of lecturing at Cardiff and Vale College, and holds the title of Lead Judge for Refinishing at UK Skills. Here, he discusses how, supported by 3M, the competition is inspiring success in the next generation of body repair and finishing apprentices.
"It's an exciting time to be part of the body repair and finishing sector," Richard says. "Until a few years ago, things were at a standstill. Now, we're seeing movement in terms of processes, technology and materials. For instance, metallic paints just aren't cutting it any more - we're seeing pearlescent painting moving forward in leaps and bounds. There's a lot going on, a lot of challenges."
"The process of entering competitions like UK Skills is really character building. Even going as far as the heats will enhance your CV and boost your career opportunities. It shows potential employers that you're willing to put yourself out there. Competitions inspire apprentices to work their hardest, and gives them something else to strive for, alongside completing their qualifications."
"Apprentices also gain valuable real-world experience. Because they're judged on how efficiently they use materials, they end up going into the workplace with a higher understanding of what it takes to succeed in the workplace. Essentially, they can hit the ground running and employers are able to see an immediate benefit."
So what part does 3M play in supporting colleges like Cardiff and Vale and UK Skills? By providing dry goods throughout competition heats, students are given access to cutting-edge products, some of which are not even available on the market yet. Richard says, "We use 3M products at the competitions, and often come away with surplus materials to use throughout term. Their training centre at Atherstone is an invaluable resource for us, too. They hold the heats there and provide us with all of the materials we need. Without 3M, we couldn't do any of it."
Richard knows from personal experience how important it is to provide apprentices with opportunities for growth. "When I was young, I saw the Golden Gun Awards advertised in Bodyshop magazine. While I wished I could take part, I didn't have the motivation to enter and there was no one to push me into it. Nowadays, there's no excuse to think 'it could never be me' because with the right tools and opportunities, it could be. With UK Skills, every young person in this industry has the means to strive to be the best they can be. Competitions like UK Skills are shining a spotlight on the industry, and proving that Bodyshop work takes a lot of brain power, hard work and technical understanding."
"To be able to give something back to the industry is the best feeling in the world," he concludes.
3M will also be sponsoring the ABP Club B2B Forum and Expo in Manchester City in March.