Once the exclusive domain of men, there is an encouraging new influx of women in the automotive industry who are bringing in a fresh new dynamism and balance into the sector.
One only has to look at the increase in the number of women and women owned or co-owned businesses in the automotive aftermarket sector to appreciate the shift in balance. And that shift is also slowly being reflected in the number of female apprentices entering the sector. The newest apprentice tipping the scales on gender diversity is Worcester’s very first female car mechanic apprentice, Codene Arendse.
Employed at Baxter Auto Services, established by Charles Baxter in 1992, Codene is loving her new career. Charles and his son, Charlton, have been actively involved in training apprentices since 1994, taking on students who have completed the theoretical part of their training at colleges like Motus Training Academy and Boland College, but who still need to complete a practical component. Charles is especially enthusiastic about the training because, as he points out, it helps to keep young people off the streets.
Codene started her training in January 2018, and completed her NQF levels 2, 3 and 4 before passing the trade test. “Codene is very good at her work,” he says. “It’s not easy to get this qualification – most people fail their first attempt. Although we usually help the apprentices find jobs at other workshops, I was so impressed with Codene that I gave her a job at my own workshop.”
One of the reasons the qualification is so challenging is because it has a strong maths and science component – important, because so many of the new vehicles require skills centred around electronics. This may account for the skills shortage in the area – although Charles is happy to say that he is seeing a growing interest from women. He’s not surprised: this is a job that requires a lot of hard work and discipline, which comes naturally to women. He is hoping to see another female apprentice enrol at Baxter Auto Services this year, as the schools generally send up to six students to look around the workshop and gain an insight into what their career as an apprentice would be.
Charles is a strong supporter of bodies like the Motor Industry Workshop Association (MIWA) a proud association of the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI), noting that membership is a true asset if you are looking to grow your business by accessing insured customers. “There are so many checks and balances to ensure your work is up to standard. I’m proud to say that we are a five-star graded workshop. The support we get from RMI and MIWA is incredible and we are delighted to have the area’s first women apprentice on our books,” he concludes.
Picture: Charles Baxter and Codene Arendse