CHRISTOPHER English assures people that a monkey could not do his job.
Contrary to what some might think as a master technician for Ford, Christopher, 28, has studied hard and worked for many years to be able to fix problems in cars that general mechanics can’t.
He says: “People still say anyone could do this job – it’s a grease monkey’s job. But you can’t go into car mechanics blindly. I have had to do a lot of background work to ensure I do it safely.”
Working at the Barrack Street garage in Colchester for nearly ten years, Christopher completed a three-year Ford apprenticeship.
He worked his way up from technician to senior technician and to master technician. At each stage, he completed training sessions and exams – and to become a master in his field involved a lot more than nuts and bolts.
The former St Helena School pupil says: “It became more about people skills. As well as taking the qualifications, I had to learn how to coach apprentices, become more customer-focussed, liaise with clients and carry out road tests.
“There is a great deal of job satisfaction in what I do. You see a customer coming in with their car, often their pride and joy, which is not working. But after I have worked on it and I see it driven away, it’s a great feeling.”
He says it is not enough to just pass the exams and be good with people. In order to do the job well, the master technician must have a genuine interest in why something does not work.
He says: “If you don’t have the need to know why something is not working the way you want it to, you are not going to get on with the job. The hardest part for me is accepting when something will not work and I can’t fix it. It is really frustrating.”
He admits it is also hard to tell the car owner, face to face, when they need to spend a lot of money fixing their vehicle or to tell them the vehicle is beyond repair. There are two master technicians at Ford’s Barrack Street branch, but Christopher says the training does not stop when you reach that level, as training and tests are carried out every two or three years.
He says: “People interested in entering this industry need to know it is hard work. Also, an understanding of maths and physics helps. The hour can be long, but I enjoy it.”
Christopher has always been interested in cars and knew he wanted a hands-on, practical job.
It was not until he visited a Colchester Institute open day and saw a City and Guilds qualification in motor vehicle maintenance he realised it was the job for him.
The three-year course was followed by a year at a Braintree firm, which has since closed, making racing car suspension parts.
But the job was more about engineering and manufacturing, so Christopher moved on. It was then he came across the Ford apprenticeship.
Christopher may be at the top of his game, but he has plans for the future.
He says: “There is always something new to learn with new cars coming out, but one day I would like to build kit cars for other people. The thought of building something and seeing it driven away must a great sense of achievement.”