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Q & A
Declan Allen
Assistant Head of School in the School of Management, DIT
Declan Allen is Assistant Head of School in the School of Management in DIT (Dublin Institute of Technology). He is also Programme Chair of the BSc in Logistics and Supply Chain Management and the MSc in Technology & Innovation Management. Here, Declan shares some of the challenges facing the motor industry in relation to Motor Mechanics and offers some advice as to how the industry can enhance the overall perception associated with the career of a Mechanic.
— Given the rapid developments in vehicle technology such as electric vehicles and autonomous driving, how will the role of the Motor Mechanic evolve over the coming years?
— With rapidly advancing technology and the arrival of the connected car i.e. computer on wheels, today's Motor Mechanic needs a high level of technical and computing knowledge through his or her career and this can only be achieved through a combination of a current and relevant apprenticeship curriculum as well as a comprehensive post-apprenticeship programme.
— How is the industry in Ireland preparing for this and how is training evolving?
— From a training perspective, there are broadly 2 stages; apprenticeship and post-
apprenticeship.

Apprenticeship training consists of 7 phases over 4 years. Phases 1, 3 and 5 take place in the workplace. Phase 2 takes place in an ETB centre (formerly FÁS centre) and Phases 4 and 6 take place in one of the following IoTs (Institutes of Technologies) DKIT, DIT, AIT GMIT, LIT WIT and CIT.

It is important that the apprenticeship curriculum is current and regularly reviewed. The Motor Mechanic apprenticeship is currently under review so it will be very interesting to see the extent of hybrid and electric vehicle content in the revised curriculum.

In relation to post-apprenticeship, none of the IoTs are actively involved in post-apprenticeship training. DIT had developed a dedicated BEngTech in Automotive Technology and Diagnostics part-time Level 7 degree programme, however this is not currently offered. The various importers and distributors have their own training programmes and recently, a number of independent automotive training providers have entered the market.
— How has the day-to-day working environment for a Motor Mechanic changed in recent years?
— The nature of the work of the Motor Mechanic has changed considerably in recent years. There is certainly less major repair and overhaul of engine and transmission systems and a greater level of complex diagnostics skills required. Garages today, both franchised and independent, are very well equipped with specialised equipment. Generally, they are bright clean and pleasant environments to work in.
— In response to a heightened demand for Motor Mechanics in Ireland, have you seen a corresponding increase in the number of IoT course applicants?
— The Government's Industrial Training Order regulates apprenticeships, therefore, the apprentice must be employed before attending his/her off the job training. The IoTs do not recruit apprentices as they do on other full-time programmes. They are secondary providers of apprenticeship training to SOLAS and as a result, they are allocated groups of apprentices (16 per group) for a 10 week block, 3 times per year.

During the recession, it was difficult to fill a group of 16 and some IoTs did not have a continuous supply of groups for the year. Numbers are now back to pre-recession figures.
— With the increase in demand for tradespeople, particularly within the construction sector, how can the motor industry compete on compensation and career development?
— There is no simple answer to this problem. Over recent years, Ireland as a society has become obsessed with sending their offspring to higher education and as a result, have totally undervalued the benefits of becoming a tradesperson and serving an apprenticeship.
Ireland as a society has become obsessed with sending their offspring to higher education and as a result, have totally undervalued the benefits of becoming a tradesperson and serving an apprenticeship.
— What are the challenges and opportunities facing Motor Mechanics today?
In addition to ever-advancing technologies, Motor Mechanics face challenges in the areas of upskilling, training and education, electric and hybrid vehicles, return on investment and salary levels. In addition, the average age of car parc and its impact of insurance companies' reluctance to provide insurance for older cars is an issue. (Did you ever think of the age of the aircraft you get on in the airport, many are 30 years plus.) There is also a growth in DIY/Youtube Mechanic and DIFM (Do It For Me) e.g. Mick's Garage selling parts directly to clients and they then look for a Mechanic to repair their car.

Autonomous vehicles and connected cars, pending safety and emissions regulations, the growth in car sharing and possible Right to Repair regulations and licensing are issues that Mechanics will face in the future.
— What does the motor industry need to do in order to encourage more people to enter the trade?
— For starters, the industry is currently doing little or nothing to attract the next generation of highly skilled Motor Mechanics. Both the industry and trade of Motor Mechanic has an image problem and there is also a serious gender imbalance. The motor industry need to be proactive and develop a targeted PR campaign aimed at parents, school leavers and Career Guidance Counsellors.
The industry is currently doing little or nothing to attract the next generation of highly skilled Motor Mechanics. Both the industry and trade has an image problem and there is also a serious gender imbalance.
— Lastly Declan, what are the benefits of a career as a Motor Mechanic?
— There are a wide range of benefits to serving an apprenticeship to the trade of Motor Mechanic. An apprentice has the advantage of working alongside experienced Mechanics on state-of-the-art automotive technology. While working with a qualified Mechanic, the apprentice is trained on the practical aspects of automotive technology, service and repair of motor vehicles. This practical learning on the job is supported by off the job training and education, initially in an ETB centre and later in an Institute of Technology.

Successfully completing an apprenticeship as a motor mechanic is a great foundation to a rewarding career. Post-apprenticeship, there are many and varied career possibilities both at home and abroad for highly skilled Motor Mechanics.

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About Declan Allen
Declan Allen has a long association with the Irish motor industry having served an apprenticeship to the trade of Motor Mechanic in the 1980s and then worked as Service Manager in a busy Dublin franchised dealership. As an apprentice Motor Mechanic, he attained Bolton College of Technology on day release where he attended evening classes 3 nights a week. In 1990, he began part-time lecturing in Bolton Street, becoming a full-time lecturer in 1998. He was also Assistant Head and Head of Department of Transport Engineering, Dublin Institute of Technology from 2005 to 2015.

Since completing his apprenticeship, he has graduated with a BA (Hons) Degree in Business Studies from the University of Glamorgan and a Masters of Business Studies Degree from UCD. He is currently a registered DBA student with the Grenoble Ecole de Management, France.

Declan is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) having served as Chair of the CILT Education Committee and as Council Member from 1996-2006. He currently sits on the Education Committee.

Declan is currently the Assistant Head of School in the School of Management, College of Business DIT, where he is Programme Chair of the BSc in Logistics and Supply Chain Management and the MSc in Technology & Innovation Management degree programmes.

He has published various articles in journals and international conferences on automotive industry, logistics and supply chain management.
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