Bursary boost for apprentices

A new initiative to help safeguard the future of the historic vehicle industry by training skilled engineering apprentices has been launched. Cambridge & Counties Bank, which offers finance for classic car purchases, has announced it is to become the official ‘Finance Partner’ to the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs (FBHVC), supporting the federation’s Heritage Engineering Apprenticeship scheme with bursaries and business education.

The bank launched its specialist classic car division in the spring, and by September 2018 had already lent out £2million to finance the purchase of classic machinery. Its scheme offers loans from £63k to £1.5million, placing it at the higher end of the market, but it’s looking at the bigger picture too. The partnership with the FBHVC goes in at the grass roots level, helping to ensure the industry supporting the classic car scene can continue to thrive.

Bursary boost for apprentices

Bursary boost for apprentices / Mike Kirsopp, CEO of Cambridge & Counties Bank (left), with FBHVC Chairman David Whale.

Although the restoration industry is going from strength to strength, paradoxically there’s a growing shortage in the skills needed to keep it going.

Even basic servicing requires skills most modern technicians have forgotten, while keeping a classic vehicle on the road requires knowledge passed on from previous generations. As an ageing workforce reaches retirement, the industry doesn’t have an opportunity to pass on its skills without new engineers being attracted to the industry. To solve this problem, the industry is attracting and investing in new apprentices. The FBHVC initially got the ball rolling in 2014, with the development of the original ‘Classic Vehicle Restoration Apprenticeship’.

Two years later, the federation again played a major role alongside JLR Classic Works and the Heritage Skills Academy (HSA), working to new apprenticeship standards in leading the ‘Heritage Engineering Technician’ Trailblazer group. After two years work, the new ‘Heritage Engineering Technician Standard’ was approved on August 23 2018, with a value of £26,000 and delivery over 42 to 46 months.

The new ‘Heritage Engineering Technician Apprenticeship’ is a nationally recognised Advanced Diploma with an option to specialise for a further year. The course covers a range of heritage sectors, including classic motor vehicles, aviation, marine and steam.

The programme is delivered at the federation’s own facility at Bicester Heritage by HSA, which currently has 36 mechanical classic vehicle apprentices being trained at its bespoke workshop, and expects to have 60 by spring. A second workshop will open in March 2019 for coachbuilding and trim. The federation also have an option on a 5000 square foot new workshop in 2021, so the potential for growth is clearly there.


The new Trailblazer standard now offers apprenticeship funding to applicants of all ages rather than just 16-18 year-olds, with the current crop ranging from 16 right up to 49. “If you get people coming out of the military looking to train for a new career for instance, or someone who wants a change, then they can take the Trailblazer course, and that’s major step forward,” said FBHVC Chairman David Whale.

A further advantage is that Heritage Skills Academy offers a residential block release programme, which opens the programme nationally, not just local to Bicester. Apprentices travel to Bicester Heritage for a week at a time, nine times a year. Providing the student can make that trip, geography is no longer an issue and the pool of willing apprentices should be able to expand without restriction.

That’s where Cambridge & Counties Bank comes in by providing bursaries, with two applications already being developed. The money will be made available via an application process to help with travel and accommodation for apprentices and employers wishing to access these exciting new apprenticeships. Karl Carter, FBHVC training and skills director, said: “For small businesses, the issue is not the cost of the apprenticeship, because we manage to get £26,000 for the programme from the government. Small employers often don’t mind paying the apprentice, and as long the training is paid for that’s fine, but there are nine weeks away through the year which have to be covered. That’s why bursaries work very nicely.”


The support from Cambridge & Counties is not just financial however, as it will also be designing and delivering the business modules within the curriculum. Managers and key subject experts from within the bank will be passing on training to ensure the apprentices are fully equipped with the skills and knowledge they need to run a business and manage finances.

The bank’s CEO, Mike Kirsopp, explained: “It is vitally important that we nurture and support skills for the future. Apprentices entering the world of heritage engineering will likely be working within small businesses or a business of their own and so equipping them with the understanding of finance, cash flow, accounting and asset management will be critical to their future success. We have the expertise and passion here at Cambridge & Counties Bank to support these students and play our part in preserving the future for historic vehicles.”

Five years ago, the FBHVC had a single revenue stream, and that was per capita payment that the members of its clubs paid per year. But since then, bursaries have meant a more diverse income and have expanded what can be achieved. “Having Cambridge & Counties Bank as our finance partner will help the Federation in its work to champion the cause of transport heritage in the UK,” added David Whale. “The bank’s approach to supporting our students through a balance of commercial assistance and the offer of training and apprenticeships reflects their obvious commitment to supporting the classic car sector and the thousands of skilled jobs it creates.”

Clearly there’s still a long way to go to ensure vital skills are not lost in an ever-changing and growing classic car industry, but this new development is another significant step in the right direction. The Cambridge & Counties bursary applies to students at the Heritage Skills Academy only, and will be managed as part of the course application process. For information, contact Janice Richardson via JJ@ heritageskillsacademy.co.uk or call 01438 718224.

Emily Leese

Emily Leese / Emily Leese is currently working through an apprenticeship at Beaulieu, delivered by Heritage Skills Academy and supported by a bursary from the Worshipful Company of Coach makers of London.

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