A record number of young accident repair technicians graduated from Thatcham’s Apprentice Academy this week, boosted by more than 50 successful apprentices from the Nationwide Apprenticeship Academy scheme.

A key fixture in the repair industry calendar, Thatcham’s annual Apprentice Graduation has come to represent a significant milestone, both for the young repair technician at the start of a successful career and for the industry set to benefit from this fresh injection of new talent.

This year’s graduation was run over two separate ceremonies to accommodate unprecedented numbers, as a result of Thatcham’s ongoing partnership with Nationwide Accident Repair Services. Nationwide relaunched their apprenticeship scheme as a new programme in conjunction with Thatcham earlier this year with the aim of increasing support for apprenticeships, focusing technical skills and improving retention during and after their training. The largest technician apprenticeship scheme in the industry, Thatcham manage all on-site technical, Commercial and VA (Vehicle Assessor) apprentice training on Nationwide’s behalf and are involved throughout, from the recruitment process through to graduation.

The collaboration is a logical and progressive development taking two already well established and respected programmes to form one market leading programme. Alongside the Nationwide graduates, another 37 apprentices from the 3 accident repair disciplines of Panel, Paint and M.E.T. (Mechanical, Electrical and Trim) and representing repair businesses from all over the UK, were joined by employers, friends, family and senior members of the accident repair industry as they celebrated this important career milestone.

Ben Eaton, former Thatcham Apprentice, WorldSkills Bronze medallist and now paint sprayer at Mercedes Formula 1 team also lent his support to proceedings, reflecting on his time as a Thatcham Apprentice and describing how this important foundation inspired him on to further achievements. During both ceremonies, which were hosted by Thatcham’s Commercial Director, Lesley Upham, outstanding apprentices were additionally honoured for what Lesley described as “their particular tenacity in achieving an apprenticeship, often against challenging circumstances.”

Thatcham’s ‘Outstanding Achievers’ were named as Alex Dark of UK Assistance ARC, Ross Fryer of Apollo Motor Company (Basingstoke) and Grant Pearce of Wiltshire ARC, whilst Nationwide’s Apprentice of the Year was Dan Coles, recognised particularly for achieving a runners up placement in the extremely competitive WorldSkills International Apprentice Challenge.

Presenting Nationwide Apprenticeship Academy graduates with their certificates, Nationwide’s Chief Executive, Michael Wilmshurst , said, “Developing leading edge technical skills whilst, at the same time, absorbing the customer focussed culture of our business, ensures that our newly qualified Apprentices develop the personal attributes and competencies required to deliver both outstanding work and outstanding customer service.

To successfully complete a Nationwide Apprenticeship takes a huge amount of skill, determination, application and patience. It requires vision and ambition. This graduation ceremony is a celebration of all of these qualities in the Apprentices who have completed the programme.”