Apprentice Garage Mechanics

I never met MM, but it was because of him that I got my first lecturing contract. I was at a loose end, and looked in the local paper to see what jobs were about. Six week temporary lectureship in Motor Vehicle Engineering, at the local technical college, caught my eye. My first degree was in Mechanical Engineering, I’d worked in a garage as a fitter for a while between school and university, and I’d done all the repairs and maintenance on my own cars and some for other friends and family.

It turned out that MM was going to Egypt for six weeks, working at a technical college there. He was helping them to set up a course similar to the one he was running in England.

I got the job – teaching apprentice garage mechanics a bit about engineering theory. Each day of the week I had a different batch of a dozen apprentices on day release, so I got to deliver the same material five times in a week, and then something different the next week.

I was working to a predesigned course, with good course material provided by MM, and the apprentices had course books with sections for them to fill in, as well as excellent text and diagrams. I had some demonstrations to do, but most of my time was spent wandering around keeping an eye on the apprentices working through their books, and explaining things to them as and when they ran into difficulties.

Three of the six weeks the afternoons were spent in the workshop, dismantling and re-assembling various sections of old cars. Three afternoons wasn’t enough to cover all the sections they had to know about, but most of them had worked on some of the required sections at their employers, so it was a matter of covering the others. Not too difficult to organize. The really important thing in the workshop sessions wasn’t so much their knowing about the engineering anyway – it was observing the way they worked, and making sure they learnt to avoid unsafe methods of working, or unsafe behaviour.

It was quite fun – most of the groups were good lads. The Friday group had a couple of troublemakers in it, and regretfully I had to report them to the authorities for horseplay in the workshop, which lost them their jobs. I’d tried to warn them...

MM went to Egypt for six weeks again the following year. The college wrote to me and asked if I was available, which I was. They didn’t even bother to advertise, so I presume they thought I’d done a reasonable job!