Teenager Laura Bray has set the wheels in motion on a career that is going places by landing a prized apprenticeship with luxury vehicle brand Mercedes-Benz.
A precision eye for detail helped the 17-year-old, of Jarrow, South Tyneside, attain the coveted three-year training position that is expected to lead to a full-time job as a paint technician.
Bosses at Mercedes’ dealership in Hylton Grange, off Wessington Way, Sunderland, were impressed by the high-quality work she displayed during a previous year of studies at South Tyneside College.
They saw for themselves her dedication to doing the job right when they joined her in the classroom and workshop, which led to the apprenticeship offer.
For Laura, who is now a vehicle body and paint technician apprentice, it justified a career switch which took her from a planned future in health and care on leaving school in 2018.
She spends four days-a-week training with experts at the dealership, operated by Sytner North East, part of the national Sytner Group, and one day at college.
Laura said: “Learning these great skills with Mercedes was an opportunity I could not refuse – I’m really enjoying the work that I’m doing.
“Mercedes is such a well-known and respected car maker that learning the right skills with them will really enhance my career.
“When I left school, I wanted to try a health and care course, but at the same time I knew I wanted to work with my hands.
“Instead of health and care, I did a one-year course at the college in motor boy paint, and it was from that that Mercedes got to see the work that I was capable of.
“I know they rate my eye for detail extremely highly, which is something I’m very pleased about. It was an important factor in getting this apprenticeship.”
Bodyshop manager Ian Allison said Laura’s apprenticeship represented the continuation of a fruitful partnership with the South Shields-based college.
Previous successes include former apprentice Liam Scott, who completed a two-year training programme earlier this year and is now Ian’s trusted right-hand man.
It also strengthens the dealership’s ability to maintain and develop a highly skilled workforce, while matching its ambitions to support talented youngsters into employment.
Ian said: “Liam came to us as part of a very good relationship we enjoy with South Tyneside College, and he has thrived while here.
“We went back to the college when we were looking for a new apprentice and Laura stood out from the other young people we looked at and interviewed.
“They were all good, but you could see from her work that she has a quite exceptional eye for detail, which is very important when you are working on cars that can be of high value.
“She has only been with us a short time but has already shown tremendous talent, initiative and an ability to work hard that could potentially take her far.
“We take young people who show potential and give them the skills to progress and excel.
“I am delighted at how well Laura has settled into her apprenticeship and the excellent attitude she is showing to learning. She is displaying huge potential.”
Laura was picked out by Mercedes this summer as she approached the end of a one-year level 2 vehicle body paint course at the college.
Specialists at the college enjoy close links to the region’s employers, putting them in the driving seat to placing young learners into apprenticeships and other training routes.
Chery Cameron, Head of Employer Engagement, Apprenticeships and Partnerships at South Tyneside College, said: “It is a credit to Laura that her skills were picked out by Mercedes during a visit to the college.
“She is taking full advantage of this prestigious apprenticeship and is already proving that she has the potential to excel. She is putting her talents to great effect.
“Laura s one of many young people who this college has supported into a high-value apprenticeship or other training opportunity.
“We have great links to employers in the North East and beyond and would urge anyone considering their training options to get in touch.”
The college’s general apprenticeship provision includes engineering, business, marketing, IT, hospitality and catering, and hairdressing and beauty therapy.
It also runs pre-apprenticeships, shorter training programmes of up to six months that get people work ready.
Sytner North East is part of the Sytner Group which represents 19 of the world’s most desirable car manufacturers in over 100 dealerships across the UK, including three Mercedes-Benz outlets in the North East and Teesside.
Full information on apprenticeships is available by calling 0191 427 3500 or by visiting www.stc.ac.uk.
Information on Mercedes-Benz Sunderland is available by calling 0191 502 0152 or by visiting at wwwmercedesbenzofsunderland.co.uk