Bridgestone training

Bridgestone has opened a training and assessment centre at the Horiba Mira testing ground near Nuneaton to improve and accredit the skills of tyre technicians.

While training courses and assessments will be chargeable, Bridgestone sales and marketing director - North Europe region John Folliss said the new centre represented a significant investment for the company and wider tyre industry. “It will not benefit us – the aim is to increase the service levels provided to fleets,” he said. “The industry is also trying to improve staff retention and training is really important to that.”

The company has been training tyre technicians in the UK for 12 years at dealers and customer sites, but the new purpose-built centre raises the bar for safe yet effective training. It features a cut-down semi-trailer with four wheels of different designs to simulate real-world situations and enable accreditations to take place in a controlled environment.

UK development trainer Paul Turner said the days of “follow the foreman and do what he does” have long gone. “Fleets are focused on compliance and just being time served is no longer enough,” he said. “Tyre fitting is hard, dirty and dangerous work. These guys are out in all weathers fitting tyres and it has to be seen as a career not just a job.”

Bridgestone is offering accreditation to the Institute of Road Transport Engineers’ Irtec Tyre, after becoming the first UK operator to trial the accreditation standard for passenger and goods vehicle tyre technicians last year, and the National Tyre Distributors Association’s (NTDA) Roadside Emergency Action Concerning Technicians (REACT) and Tyre Technician Development schemes. Over 4,500 NTDA photocards have now been issued but Irtec Tyre has yet to take off, with only around 40 technicians so far accredited, 30 of them by Bridgestone.

Bridgestone UK development trainer Phil Thirsk said that while Bridgestone was a strong supporter of voluntary accreditation schemes like Irtec and NTDA, the industry had been “slow” to get a tyre technician apprenticeship approved under the government’s employer-led Trailblazer initiative.

Two schemes were now under development for approval by the Institute for Apprenticeships (IFA), a government body set up to ensure high-quality apprenticeship standards and advise government on which schemes to fund.

The standard for commercial and heavy goods vehicle tyre technicians – or special tyre operatives as the IFA prefers to call them – was approved in December 2017 and the next step is to get the occupational brief and end-point assessment approved by Ofqual.