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What it’s like to be a mechanic

Rebecca Middleton, 47, is a mechanic based at Evans Halshaw Ford Gainsborough in Lincolnshire. She is a technician and MOT tester and has worked at the store for 31 years.

Rebecca Middleton left school at 16 and began working as a mechanic for a car dealership straight away.

She’d had a stint of work experience at a Rover dealership in Gainsborough which went well.

Rebecca recalled: “They were impressed with the way I showed an interest and wasn’t afraid of getting stuck in and getting dirty. Which actually happened on the second day – I managed to get covered head to foot in axle oil. It is the most horrendous smell I have ever experienced and doesn’t come off very easily.

“They offered me an apprenticeship for the following year after finishing school, but unfortunately they closed down before that happened.”

Starting an apprenticeship

Instead of joining the team at Rover, Rebecca spotted two positions opening at the Ford garage. She attended the interview in work wear and steel toe-capped boots ready to start, and was given the job.

She explained: “Back then in the 1990s it was frowned upon for a female to be in a man’s work environment. But here I am, 31 years later, and I have outlasted every single one of my colleagues.

“I had a three-year apprenticeship with day release to a local college. The course was City and Guilds in Motor Vehicle Engineering, which could be followed on by a BTEC qualification. I also had to do skills tests and go to Daventry Ford college to learn about Ford cars. From there, you become a technician, and if you want to go on to become a senior, master or specialist technician.”

Hands-on job

Rebecca describes herself as a ‘bit of a tomboy’ growing up, so when her dad was in the shed or garage, she used to enjoy going with him.

“I was very much a tomboy growing up so wanted a hands-on job. I really wanted to be a vet but I hadn’t got the right qualifications from school. So being a mechanic is close to it; by that I mean you repair and service cars instead of repairing animals and health checking them.”

Rebecca Middleton, female mechanic and technician at Evans Halshaw

The good and the bad

On what it’s like being a mechanic, Rebecca said: “It is a very physically tiring and mentally-challenging job. Problem-solving skills and common sense are required, and being able to communicate and work as a team is a big part of the job.”

She added: “It’s very satisfying when you have managed to repair a customers’ vehicle and get them safely back on the road again.”

When asked what she loves about the job, Rebecca said: “The job is so very versatile. You may be doing MOTs and servicing one day, the next maybe diagnostic work or brakes, tyres or timing belts and clutches. Every vehicle brand is different and each vehicle will usually have different faults.”

Being in the minority

It wasn’t always easy being he only woman in the dealership.

Rebecca said: “When I first started at Evans Halshaw Ford in 1992 it was hard being a minority female in a man’s working environment. You had to put up with a degree of boyish banter and pressure.

“After three years of failing to be pushed towards working on reception, I was then accepted as being part of the team. 31 years later I am now one of the longest serving in the building.”

My advice for aspiring mechanics

“What advice would I give… make sure it is something you definitely want to do and have an interest in. Being a technician is a very demanding job with lots of time restraints and some stress. It is a very physical and mentally taxing job. But it is rewarding when the customer is happy and actually says thank you.

“I would tell my 16-year-old self to do better at science as we now need it more with electric and hybrid vehicles becoming the norm. That is the future and we have to adapt and learn.”

On her hopes and plans for the future, Rebecca said: “I hope to still be here at Evans Halshaw, in the same dealership when I retire.”

Bex Bastable
Bex Bastablehttp://bexbastable.co.uk
Bex is a journalist and the co-founder of The Women's Work Collective.
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