WHEN reporter Mark Fisk visited Harlow College’s vehicle maintenance department he discovered that women are being encouraged to take up what has traditionally been seen as a male role.

Twenty eight year–old Shannon Maloney is the tutor of the Level two class. She has a range of prior experience, having served five years in the police force as well as doing some prison and support work with young offenders.

She took on her current role to ‘inspire young people’ especially young women who might not have thought that such a male orientated job was for them.

Female participation on the course is low, with only two of the students in the current group of 15 being female.

Shannon serves as an excellent role model for young people in general, but particularly to any young women who may be considering a venture into this field.

She said:’Women can be just as capable as men when they apply themselves equally.’

She stressed that offering equal opportunities is important but she understands that the need to respect women’s choices is also vital.

The course is free for anyone between the ages of 16 and 19 and there are grants and funding options available to anyone outside of that bracket.

Facilities at the Hamec Centre,  on site at Harlow College are extensive, with 3-D printers and advanced diagnostics simulators amongst some of the tech available to students.

The fast pace of technology was identified as one area which brings difficulty in a college environment, keeping up with the latest devices and techniques requires funding and they simply can’t always afford to be right at the cutting edge.

A range of work experience and apprenticeships are encouraged throughout the course, much of which can be gained through the fully functional mechanical bay in the on-site Hamec Centre.

The students have been pragmatic and they offer services on staff cars at £5 each, with all proceeds going to the Princess Alexandria Hospital Trust, an honourable cause, especially when the students were given the option to invest the funds in other equipment but elected to support a local charity.

It isn’t all practical experience though, there is a lot of theory and academic work that goes alongside that, Shannon said:  ‘There is a curriculum which we cover but there is still some room for improvisation.’

Core skills still include Maths and English as well as any other area relevant  qualifications that come with different apprenticeships.

Shannon also spoke a little about the changing face of the automotive industry in regards to automation and green technology, as well as the challenges that these things bring, she stressed the importance of keeping teaching relevant and up to date to ensure students enter the workplace with an accurate understanding of the industry landscape.

Student Kyle Walman, 18,  who is halfway through his Lvl 2 Motor Vehicle Maintenance and Repair, spoke about his dreams of working at a world class rally team like M-Sports as an engineer, he has already amassed four years experience at a local private garage as well as a week at Mr Uniques Tyre and Exhaust and some time at Stansted Airport, dealing with heavy goods.

Kyle’s Dad owns a garage and encouraged Kyle to pursue a career in the automotive industry from a young age, which he was more than happy to do.

Kyle commented on how few colleges offer the kind of course and equipment available at Harlow and he thought that had he not been local he would have travelled here to attend the course.

He said ‘I’ve received plenty of praise and encouragement inside and outside of the college, which gives me the confidence to push for success.’