Katy Hawkes is a Motor Vehicle Assessor who works for East Surrey College and Farnborough College of Technology. This means she visits (and assesses) mechanics aka technicians as they complete their training qualifications.
As such, she has done what they are doing and is ideally placed to assess their progress and abilities as well as advise them.
When Steph met Katy at an IMI event recently they both hit it off. And because Katy seems to have ignored fairly typical obstacles to her entering the motor industry, and is now a raving fan, Steph wanted to inspire others to follow suit.
So here is our interview with Katy explaining how she is able to fit her busy family life around her career to date. All it takes is a flexible mindset as well as an accommodating family and employer of course!!
Needless to say, we need more Katy’s in the motor industry today but we’ll let her sell that concept to you now!
Q1) Please tell us about your life and any career aspirations.
I am 31 years old and live in Woking, Surrey with my husband and 2 children. In my spare time I enjoy horse riding and attending car shows or working on my husbands TVR. My ‘secret’ ambition is to work for the IMI as an external verifier at some stage in future. I am looking forward to starting my internal verifier qualifications soon to take me in this direction.
Q2) Tell us about a typical working day in your life if there is such a thing!
As I have young children and a self employed husband I am lucky enough to fit work in around the kids. I like to start early so I can be with my first learner when their garage opens. The learner will have job card evidence for their portfolio for me to check against criteria and hopefully a task arranged that I can observe.
I like to get my visits done early and finish in time for afternoon school run. I will then submit my observation write ups and learner job card evidence to e-portfolio (once the kids are in bed).
Working part time means I can use mornings when everyone is at school to catch up on paperwork.
Q3) With A Levels in English, Psychology, Theology and French, what attracted you towards motor vehicle engineering?
I fell ill during my A-levels, missed a couple of months of study and didn’t get the results I wanted.
I was going to redo my exams when I realised I didn’t want to go to university anyway!
I wanted to be working instead and if I could earn whilst I learned that’d be the icing on the cake.
I then realised I could combine this with my love of cars and began investigating motor vehicle education routes.
Q4) Parents are said to influence our career choices. What did they think about yours in the early days?
My parents (and older brothers) were not at all happy with this choice and tried to talk me out of it at every opportunity. In the end I compromised and did an AVCE motor vehicle engineering course which would give me 2 more A levels to prove my commitment.
Two years later, once I had finished that course I sent my CV out to every local garage. I was invited to five interview, offered each job and chose to work for Inchcape Ford.
Since then my parents have completely changed their minds about the motor industry because they’ve reaped the benefits of my education and skills with free car maintenance and all sorts of mechanical repairs!
Q5) If young women aren’t interested in motor engineering as much as they seem to be interested in health, beauty and caring careers does this really matter? Should we be striving to recruit them into workplaces where the majority of workers are men and facilities are presumably geared towards them? And vice versa for men of course.
Definitely, I am a firm believer that a gender mix makes for a more efficient, profitable and better working team.
I’m not at all convinced that young women aren’t interested in motor engineering but I do think more needs to be done to encourage them and inspire them into these roles.
With today’s technology (plus health and safety controls) there aren’t even the same heavy lifting requirements. In the workshop I was called upon for smaller, fiddly jobs as I was patient and had skinnier arms to reach awkward places.
In turn I would ask for help lifting out larger transmissions and such like. This all worked well and was good for team dynamics.
A head of engineering for a college I worked for was involved in STEM, which aims to encourage women into science, technology and engineering roles so much is being done here but perhaps the motor industry isn’t attracting its fair share yet.
I think perhaps any perceptual problem starts at a very young age – with gender specific toys and clothes even. I know this is often a hot topic for keyboard warriors but it is true in my experience.
Too many adverts aimed at children show girls pushing babies in prams and boys racing cars around or building things. Boys clothes and shoes are more hard wearing and designed for running and climbing, whereas girls trousers are cut slimmer and their shoes are nowhere near as durable as boys ones (and I do have a little tree climber girl so I know).
Sub consciously this is already telling little girls they are expected to nurture and boys to play rough and build.
Q6) How can the automotive industry reach more women, of all ages, to tell them about exciting careers they’ve not known anything about? Will the new apprenticeship scheme help here?
I think the work the IMI does with colleges and schools is brilliant but more is needed as early as possible in a child’s life.
Times are changing and I think we will see more empowered women and men in the next generation who truly believe they can do whatever they want to do. Which they can of course.
The new apprenticeship standard could help but it needs more advertising as a serious alternative to the university route.
We need to be using a lot more pictures of girls in engineering roles until it really is ‘the norm’.
One of the biggest hurdles is parents from previous generations talking their children out of it (which could have happened to me had I not be so stubborn ????).
Q7) With all your technical experience and an evident love of performance cars, what would your dream car be and why?
My dream car is a Shelby Mustang GT500 (Blame the film ‘Gone in 60 Seconds’).
The favourite car I have owned was a Nissan Pulsar GTI-R – a 2 litre 3 door hatchback that’s a Japanese import with 465 bhp… it mightn’t look much but it was FANTASTIC to drive.
Thank you for your views Katy.
Keep us posted about the assessor exams and your IMI career goal. We’ll want to keep in touch!