Mechanics, or motor vehicle technicians, are responsible for maintenance and repair of motor vehicles. This is most commonly cars, but can also include motorcycles, larger vehicles and even heavy machinery. With a consistent demand for qualified technicians, there is plenty of scope for work and career progression.
Training as a Mechanic
There are several routes into the profession including apprenticeships, higher education and even self-employment.
Currently, the most common way to become a mechanic is by taking up an apprenticeship in vehicle mechanics. In the UK, this will often require basic qualifications (typically GCSEs) in Maths, English and Science. Trainee mechanics can work for either dealerships, specialising on a particular make of car, or at independent garages where they come into contact with a wide variety of makes and models.
Apprentices get paid on the job, earning a stipend which is typically below the national minimum wage as the training provided represents a further costs to the employer doing the training. The training process can take anywhere from a few months to several years depending on the apprentice’s level of experience and desired specialism.
Another common path into the profession is to take automotive courses at a local college. Here are just a few of the courses offered by City and Guilds for automotive technicians:
- Level 1 Certificate/Diploma in Vehicle Maintenance
- Level 2 Diploma in Light Vehicle Maintenance and Repair
- Level 2 Diploma in Motorcycle Maintenance and Repair
- Level 3 Diploma in Auto Electrical and Mobile Electrical Principles
The benefit of training with a college over an apprenticeship is that you can often progress more quickly by receiving more comprehensive training faster that those doing apprenticeships. The downside is that you may have to pay for your training, and when you graduate, you won’t have the same “foot in the door” that apprentices already working with employers will have.
Becoming a Self-Employed Mechanic – Opening Your Own Garage
This is a less typical route into the industry, but one well worth considering if you already have a good deal of experience working in vehicle repair. Technically, automotive repair isn’t regulated in the same way that, say, driving heavy goods vehicles is regulated. Anyone can open up shop and start fixing cars, but there is obviously a bigger financial cost to becoming a mechanic in this way.
Self-employed mechanics can operate on their own premises or operate as mobile vehicle technicians. Being a mobile technician represents a smaller start up cost as you won’t need the space to house vehicles whilst you’re working on them, and you can even manage a home-based office. If you don’t have a level 3 qualification, then you can usually take a test from VOSA in order to become a registered MOT tester as well.
The biggest barrier to entry in this fashion is the upfront cost of diagnostic and repair equipment. If you have some relevant experience and/or qualifications, bank loans can often be made to purchase the essential items like car movers, vehicle lifts, air compressors, tyre balancing equipment, fluid containers, spanners, diagnostic tools and possibly even welding equipment.