An innovative historic vehicle restoration course and apprenticeship scheme is moving to Bicester Heritage, the centre for automotive excellence based in Oxfordshire.
The course, run by Active Learning and Banbury and Bicester College, equips students with the skills they need to go on to a career in the historic motoring industry. The move to Bicester Heritage means that they will be able to study in a supportive environment surrounded by businesses and experts practising the skills that they are looking to emulate.
The move will take place this summer, meaning that apprentices starting later this year, and those already involved, will be based in the former RAF Engine Test house at Bicester Heritage. The former Bomber Training Station is also home to over 30 businesses, employers and experts, all specialising in classic and vintage cars and their restoration and preservation.
Many of the buildings at Bicester Heritage are now being reused for their original purposes, with vintage Bentley specialist Kingsbury Racing fitting engines to Bentleys in the old Engine Fitting Shop and Classic Oils storing and selling heritage oils from the RAF’s Lubricant store. It is therefore appropriate that the apprentices will have their knowledge and skills tested in the former RAF Engine Test House.
The historic vehicle restoration apprenticeship scheme was launched in order to respond to a skills gap in the industry, and to train up the next generation of classic and vintage vehicle experts and enthusiasts.
The Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs, who created the course, carried out research that identified that half of the 28,000 employees that work in the vehicle renovation industry are aged 45 or older. Businesses are expected to need up to 150 apprentices a year for the next five years in order to protect the future of an industry that is worth an estimated £4.3bn a year.
Daniel Geoghegan, Managing Director of Bicester Heritage, added: “Bicester Heritage is focused on the future of our past and, as such, skills transfer is a major pillar of our strategy. We are also delighted to see the Engine Test House, built in 1926, return to life so appropriately.”
Pablo Lloyd, Chief Executive of Activate Enterprise, said:
The historic vehicle apprenticeship was launched to develop the talent required to safeguard the future of this important and high value sector.
The opportunity to locate our training programmes within the UK’s specialist centre for the classic vehicle industry is extremely exciting.
“Our aim is to offer apprentices and students a direct line of sight to employment. This move will offer them an unrivalled learning experience, surrounded by industry enthusiasts and expertise, and the chance to build vital links with employers.
FBHVC Chairman, David Whale said, “The instant success of the course at Banbury and Bicester College meant that it very quickly outgrew the existing premises at the Bicester campus.
“The fact that ideal facilities, in absolutely the most appropriate environment, existed so close at Bicester Heritage was too good an opportunity to miss. It means that the students will develop their knowledge and skills surrounded by the very craftsmen they aspire to succeed.”
Bicester Heritage is throwing open its doors to the public on May 22 for the 9th Sunday Scramble, which pays tribute to the fastest, most evocative and most glamorous cars throughout history. The theme is ‘Supercars through the ages’ and will see the likes of the Bugatti Owners Club heading to the site whilst the specialist businesses based at Bicester Heritage will offer the opportunity for visitors to see their latest projects, workshops and showrooms.