Q1. FINDING A WAY INTO THE MOTOR INDUSTRY

I really like cars and would like to become a maintenance technician. I finish school in July and want to do an apprenticeship in the motor industry. Could you tell me how to go about getting into an apprenticeship programme? Daniel, 16

A1. JAMES HOLYFIELD, HEAD OF WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT, AUTOMOTIVE SKILLS

To become a maintenance technician you have several options. You could apply to a well-known car manufacturer: companies like Jaguar, Honda, Toyota, BMW and VW have their own training centres, often called academies. These companies will often ask you to have at least five good GCSEs, and you should be able to apply online through their company website.

Alternatively, you could apply to a local training provider such as a college or private training company that offers apprenticeship training in motor vehicles. There are national bodies like ReMIT ( www.remit.co.uk) and EMTEC ( www.emtec-recruitment.co.uk) who can help you find a place on a programme too.

You could also apply in person to local garages, and it is a good idea to keep an eye on your local newspaper for any job adverts. Another thing you should do is contact your careers adviser, and a more informal route might be to go on a work experience placement at a garage.

Finally, there are apprentice programmes for other areas of the motor industry, like vehicle sales and vehicle parts for example. For more information, try the Automotive Skills careers portal: www.automotiveskills.org.uk/careers

Q2. WILL MY QUALIFICATIONS DO THE BUSINESS?

I have a qualification in business administration and work at our local hotel as a receptionist. I'd like to get into the motor industry but don't want to be a mechanic or sell cars. Could I use my customer skills to work in a car dealership? Hasmita, 19

A2. TIM COLLIER, AFTERSALES MANAGER, WHITEHOUSE GROUP, CRAYFORD

Having the right people employed in the right roles is critical to the success of the business, but finding these people is never easy. It's often thought that employers don't take on people without motor industry experience. But let's do a break-down of the roles of a service advisor or customer appointments controller in a dealership and see what qualities are really needed. You need to be:

* Organised, with good administration skills

* Customer-focused, with strong people skills and an excellent telephone manner

* Calm under pressure, with the ability to respond to customer demands

* Able to sell, without being too pushy

* Smart, with a professional image

When you compare these skills to those of a hotel receptionist, as in your case, you can see the similarities. I have regularly employed people with hotel experience and they have all adapted very successfully, and have offered lots in terms of front-line customer skills.

Q3. MAIN EVENT COULD BE JUST THE JOB

A careers adviser at my local college mentioned that there are quite a few careers events being held around the UK. What are the best events to go to if I want to find out more about careers in the motor industry? Matthew, 17

A3. RANI MEHNI, EVENTS CO-ORDINATOR, AUTOMOTIVE SKILLS

You're right, there are lots of events which help you find your way and choose a career. Your careers teacher or adviser should always be your first port of call; they'll know about all the events being held locally and will be able to give you advice on how to make the most of them. For school students and jobseekers, look out for both Jobscene ( www.jobsceneuk.co.uk) and SkillCity ( www.skillcity.org.uk) all around the UK.

If you're dead set on a career in the motor industry though, you can't do better than attending a motor show - and they don't come much bigger here in the UK than at the British International Motor Show.

It's being held from 20-30 July this year at ExCeL exhibition centre in Docklands. For the first time, the show will feature a careers village, where you can find out more from expert bodies in the motor industry.

Alongside interactive displays of the latest motor vehicle technology, employees from the motor industry will be on hand to talk to you from their own experience. To find out more, go to www.automotiveskills.org.uk/motorshow.

IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS FOR OUR EXPERTS, PLEASE E-MAIL: careerdriven@independent.co.uk

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