Opening of £1.5m Doncaster training centre keeps mechanics up to speed with computer age technology

Times are changing in the car industry - and that is keeping the staff busy in a unit on a Doncaster industrial estate.

With the pressure on to make cars more efficient, and the Government wanting to phase out petrol power, there are big changes to come in the motor industry on top of those which have been seen over the last 20 years, which have seen computer technology introduced.

Renault trainer Bernard Jones, with trainee Daniel Holmes, at Bosch's Doncaster training centre. Byline:  David Kessen

Renault trainer Bernard Jones, with trainee Daniel Holmes, at Bosch's Doncaster training centre. Byline: David Kessen

While it may be tough for mechanics to keep up, it means times are booming for engineering firm Bosch’s training centre in Doncaster.

Until recently, the operation was based on an industrial estate in Armthorpe.

But with rising demand, the firm has had to switch to a new bigger site next to Wheatley Hall Road, on the site of the former Du Pont factory.

The £1.5 million site is now up and running - but already there are plans for expansion within the site.

Suzuki motorbikes trainer Mick Sprenglewski, with trainee Oliver Pestell, at Bosch's Doncaster training centre.  Byline:  david kessen

Suzuki motorbikes trainer Mick Sprenglewski, with trainee Oliver Pestell, at Bosch's Doncaster training centre. Byline: david kessen

Bosch operates the site on Parkside Business Park, Spinners Road - but you won't see their name on the building. Instead is carries the names of the firms whose staff it trains in car maintenance - Nissan Suzuki and Renault.

The site is used to train the mechanics who work for the firms' dealerships up and down the UK, and in the case of Suzuki, for both cars and motorbikes.

Each of the three firms sends their apprentices to the site in Doncaster for their training - meaning a total of 400 of the trainees passing through its doors a year. In addition to those, there are a further 1,000 qualified staff sent up to the borough for updated training.

Much of that work is to enable them to catch up with the fast moving automotive technology that has transformed the jobs of mechanics, in an era where people are now talking about driverless cars.

Grant Taylor-Smith, the training manager at the site for Bosch, is pleased with their new base, but is already looking at the next step.

There are already plans to increase the operation, bringing in more courses. The building is expandable, with space to create another floor within its main engineering area.

On top of that, there are plans to create courses for independent garages.

Some independents already come to the site to train with Bosch's own trainers, rather than specialists from Nissan, Suzuki and Renault. But there are plans to extend that to take in apprentices from independents as well.

Mr Taylor-Smith: "The speed of change in the industry is massive.

"I'm from a technological background, and was an apprentice myself once. The pace of change in technology is almost impossible to keep up with from the skills and knowledge basis.

"There's new technology coming in almost every day. Twenty years ago they may have said you just needed a spanner and screwdriver. The reality now is that is is about science, living in an internet connected world, where cars are effectively talking to their systems, and diagnoses of problems are done through a web cloud.

"Driving tech growth is exponential, so it is important that firms keep their engineers up to date. For businesses, it is not about the cost of training - it is about the cost of not training."

The result is the rise in work, which is leading to the firm taking on more trainers.

It will also bring more visitors to Doncaster, with the apprentices and others on training courses helping fill hotel rooms in the area.

Mr Taylor-Smith said Bosch decided to keep the operation in Doncaster because the borough is well sited in the middle of the country. That was important because people come from dealerships all the way from Scotland in the North and Cornwall in the South.

But also, the trainers who the firm use were already here, so it had the skills ready.

In addition, the industrial unit was affordable, and was in an area surrounded by car dealerships - the sort of firm whose staff use the facility.

Among the trainers is Bernard Jones, with over 25 years experience of Renault engines. He said that there were things that could be taught in the environment of the training centre that could not be taught on internet training programs. "There are things that have to be done physically," he said. "But also, part of my job is not just to be here - it's also to mentor them.

"When I started my apprenticeship in '84, they said you'll not be able to do anything with a computer. Now virtually everything we do involves computers."