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Wednesday, 01 July 2015

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Hyundai apprentice of 2011: Connor’s dedication pays off

ENGINES, gearboxes and break systems are no match for Workington mechanic Connor Southwell.

The 19-year-old, who works for J Edgar and Son at Dunmail Park, was this month named Hyundai’s apprentice of the year.

Connor battled it out against the industry’s top mechanics to be named the best in business.

But the technician has had a passion for cars all his life.

“As a young teenager I started to work on cars seriously, I was always at local car cruises and my whole family love cars.

“Becoming a mechanic was the only career option for me,” he said. “I love everything about it, so starting a career in it was a given.”

Connor, of Harrington Road, started his apprenticeship with the Workington dealership 18 months ago after taking on a placement there through Lakes College, Lillyhall.

He had originally undertaken a 12-month NVQ course in mechanics at the college and was ready to progress onto the next stage of his development.

He said: “I finished a level two qualification at college and am now onto my level three.

“For the Hyundai apprenticeship, I was put of a fast-track group because of the skills and abilities I already had.

“I go down to the Hyundai training centre at High Wycombe every six to 12 weeks for a block release of one week at a time.

“It’s very independent training there and you’re working alongside some of the best Hyundai apprentices and top technicians in the country.

“You’re expected to do a lot of your own self-directed work there. But it’s a fantastic place to train – it’s a purpose-built centre known as the Hyundai academy.”

J Edgar and Son is an affiliated dealership with Hyundai.

Connor’s manager Tony Hodgson, who is after-sales manager at the garage, said the team were impressed with him from the moment he started his three-week trial with the firm.

“He has effectively done a three-year course in two – so he has proved to be extremely dedicated,” he said.

Connor said he has only 10 months left before his Hyundai apprenticeship ends.

“I’ve not found it too difficult really. It’s all gone quite quickly but it’s great having my hobby and career rolled into one,” he said. “What more could anyone ask for really? I look forward to going to work every day, and the support and encouragement I get from the team at J Edgar is fantastic – it’s a great team to work within and environment to train in. There’s a lot of teamwork that goes on here.”

The teenager was submitted for the award following his success in his apprenticeship and the results he received from the Hyundai academy.

“I was handed my awards by the chief executive of Hyundai, Tony Whitehorn, at a ceremony in Birmingham at the end of September,” Connor said. “It felt wonderful to be picking up the top award out of all the other apprentices who had trained alongside me. They were all a similar age to me.

“Tony also came with me as my manager from J Edgar and for a bit or moral support.”

Following his successful apprenticeship with the car manufacturer, Connor said he plans to go on to do more training to become a master technician. It means a further three to five years spent working towards the qualification, which will still be through the J Edgar dealership.

“My ultimate dream is to make it to the Skills Olympics which would mean battling it out against other master technicians for a place,” Connor added. “I’d then have to go to Germany for more heats then on to Korea where I would compete against the best technicians from all over the world.

“As part of it I would have to rebuild an engine from scratch in 30 minutes and complete other tasks set by Hyundai procedures. But that’s a goal I will have to work towards for the next few years.”

Tony added: “When we took Connor on for his placement he showed so much potential so he was fast-tracked through the training scheme. He has done brilliantly.

“He thoroughly deserves the Hyundai award for all the hard work he has put in and all the re-paid trust we have given him.”


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