The Motor Vehicle team at The Bedford College Group have been shortlisted in the prestigious Pearson National Teaching Awards.
Led by Head of Department, James Woolley, they spent the past 12 months transforming a former College engineering site in Brunel Road, into a state-of-the-art facility for electric vehicle training.
The new Advanced Automotive Technology Centre was not part of the Group’s original capital project plans, so Head of Motor Vehicle, James Woolley pitched his redevelopment ideas to the senior leadership team and managed the project himself.
The overriding objective was to ensure the College could lead the way, offering cutting-edge training in electric vehicle maintenance.
“By 2030 the sale of new petrol or diesel vehicles in England will be prohibited – that’s only eight years away. Last year 10% of the new car market was electric and hybrid, that will only increase. We want to be at the forefront of the motor vehicle training – no other college in the region is currently running these courses and of the hundreds of local garages and repairs shops locally only a handful are qualified – others are turning away work on electric vehicles.”
The latest equipment
The team have ensured that the new Centre has the latest modern equipment and its own hybrid vehicle to train technicians and give them the knowledge and skills required to work safely on electric and hybrid vehicles whilst carrying out routine maintenance and repair activities.
They have designed the facility with a specific workshop for each course level, each with its own repair bays, engines and specific tooling equipment. In the body repair area, there is a paint mixer and spray rooms.
The Level 4 area has a specialist hybrid bay with brand new Bosch diagnostics equipment which were purchased with a 50% discount that James negotiated. The Bosch team also arranged to give Motor Vehicle staff a full day’s training. James was able to arrange more savings with Farecla, an international bodywork company, after some of the department’s students won their UK bonnet painting competition. Farecla gave the team free sanding and painting equipment in addition to tooling and polishing tools.
In his plans, James included a giant balcony over the workshops, areas for staff to sit and relax at lunchtime and student areas with sofas, chairs, table tennis and a canteen. Even details such as housing the giant compressor outside the workshop was based on the team’s past experience of noisy workshops and ensured that the new Centre was much quieter for learners.
All seven classrooms in the Centre have giant Samsung TVs on the wall and every Motor Vehicle tutor has a hybrid laptop / tablet that automatically pairs with the screens when they walk into the classroom.
The team gave up their summers to help finish off the renovations and ensure that the 54 students who had already enrolled on courses were able to start in September 2021.
The new, expanded facility has already enable the Motor Vehicle Team to grow the number of students which have increased by 15% from 130 students in 2020 to 150 students in 2021 and the team are currently working with Bedford Borough Council to train their vehicle technicians.
In previous years there were three Level 1 cohorts, whereas this year there were four. In addition, the team have launched a new course in Automotive Studies Advanced, Level 4 and the new Level 3 Electric/Hybrid Vehicle System Repair and Replacement course.
Alistair McCrindle CAE MIMI, External Quality Assurer – South Region said:
”The new Centre James and his staff designed, project managed and built, is a credit to themselves. The facilities, and student experience they have created, is purpose built for the modern Motor Industry and a credit to Bedford College.”
The links that the team have with the motor vehicle industry are exceptional. James has arranged for three students to gain work experience with Mercedes. In addition, Mercedes have agreed to come in to train Level 3 students on the new electric E-class Mercedes have developed, ensuring all students gain exposure to one of the top-end electric cars that has so far been launched on the market.
What’s more, the team have been chosen to teach the body paint workers from Fairline Yachts, one of the world’s leading luxury yacht companies, in September. They are exceptionally proud to have been selected and have no doubt that their state-of-the-art new facilities and equipment have a large part to play in Fairline Yacht’s decision.
Jo Baxter, Director of Science and Technology said:
“The Motor Vehicle team here at The Bedford College Group have been an inspiration to other areas of the College over the past two years. They have worked tirelessly to improve the facilities for learners and provide a cutting-edge learning environment. The introduction of new vehicle technologies in electric and hybrid have given learners the opportunity to explore modern methods of working. The team have also forged some strong links with industry partners such as the Founders Group to help support learners in their development whilst studying at the College.”