Q1. HOW TO GO FROM HIGH-STREET TO MOTOR SALES
I've worked in high-street sales, but how can I get into selling cars or motorbikes for a living?
A1. MICHAEL A. DAMANT, PRINCIPAL, HENRY FORD COLLEGE
You could start by looking in your local newspaper's job section or approaching employment agencies in your area but, at the risk of stating the obvious, you will only find vacancies that are on offer at that particular time. However, if you are thinking of both a career and a qualification, and you are a 16- to 24-year-old, you could consider an apprenticeship in vehicle sales. Ford pioneered this programme with the first cohort graduating in October 2006 ( www.henryfordcollege.co.uk).
The industry is developing new schemes to attract bright young people. Loughborough University, for example, is launching an undergraduate degree in automotive retail management targeted at school leavers with two A-levels or equivalent qualifications, and existing employees with three years' work experience. Similar programmes are available elsewhere.
Alternatively, make approaches for direct entry to the major dealer groups, such as Pendragon, Arnold Clark, Sytner and Inchcape, who are keen to attract new talent. They have a huge market presence, a lot of brand franchise representation, and a willingness to invest in training and development.
All else failing, just go and knock on your local dealer's door - your forward approach might just be what they are looking for in a sales role!
Q2. FINDING A WAY INTO DESIGNING VEHICLES
What tips would you give on getting into vehicle design?
A2. DAVID BROWNE, HEAD OF TRANSPORT DESIGN, COVENTRY UNIVERSITY
Vehicle design is a competitive area, even for places on relevant courses. Two well-established courses are Coventry University's undergraduate degree in automotive and transport design ( www.coventry.ac.uk), and the Royal College of Art's postgraduate vehicle design course ( www.rca.ac.uk). More recently, undergraduate courses have been set up at Huddersfield, Swansea and Northumbria universities.
Ideal A-level subjects include art or design, perhaps a language to chase jobs abroad, plus maths and physics. The prescribed academic grades will guarantee short-listing, but it is your portfolio that will secure an offer. Evidence of your commitment to getting on this first rung of the ladder is expected.
Competition for the more glamorous exteriors jobs is fierce, but there are more job opportunities in interiors. For inspiration, go to the annual degree shows; they are mostly in June, but our 15-month MA automotive design show runs from 1-8 December at Coventry's Transport Museum.
Q3. WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO START IN MOTORSPORT?
I'm a huge F1 fan and I'd love to work on race cars one day. What's the best way into motorsport?
A3. SUE VARDY, CAREERS MANAGER, MOTORSPORT ACADEMY
Formula One is a popular choice when choosing a career, offering prestige and an opportunity for work within a fast-moving team environment. But it is only the tip of the iceberg in motorsport.
As well as high-performance engineering roles, the world of motorsport mirrors the wider world of work, offering openings in sales, marketing, finance, IT, administration and so on. Consider not only qualifications but the opportunities that exist to gain experience, which employers value.
Many colleges and universities offer specific motorsport degrees and courses. Apprentice schemes are also available, leading to recognised qualifications. The Motorsport Academy will be launching a fast-track apprenticeship scheme next year ( www.motorsportacademy.org).
Gaining experience is very important, and the Learning Grid offers plenty of ways of getting involved ( www.learninggrid.co.uk). You could also help out at your local race team or kart track, or try to get work marshalling on race and rally events.
There are growing links between the world of motorsport and other sectors such as aerospace, marine and general automotive, which require people with skills essential to motorsport, including electronics and project management. Employers look for skilled, well-qualified staff, but above all, demand committed, determined and competitive individuals.