March 8, 2023
To celebrate International Women’s Day 2023, we met with our valued client, Amber Craddock, Site Manager (SM) and apprentice mentor at Vantage, Toyota, in Morecambe, to talk about her experiences of being a woman in the industry.
Can you tell us briefly about your role and how you ended up there?
“I’m currently working for Vantage Toyota as MOT Site Manager. I just finished my pro-tech-level exams for Toyota. And I’ve taken on an apprentice, so I’m an apprentice mentor. It’s another young lady, which is fantastic. She’s very enthusiastic.
I ended up doing this job because I used to teach for about 12 years, and I had a mental breakdown. I thought I can’t do this anymore. So I looked at what else I like doing. I like doing things with my hands, and I just thought, well, let’s try it and see what happens.
I needed something with job security. And with MOT testing, everybody needs their car mot testing. So the world’s always going to need an MOT tester. I went to my local garage, where I used to take my car, and he told me some tips and everything. And then the following week, I just told him, ‘I will come here and work for you because you need me’. I went in there a couple of weekends on really crap wages. I was living on bread and butter, but I was enjoying it, and that’s the main thing. I self-funded all my training and everything and then moved from Halifax back home to my family in Morecambe a couple of years ago. And that’s how I ended up with Vantage. I absolutely love it here. I do. There was an opportunity for me to be the MOT site manager. I just put my hand up and went I’ll do it.”
Amber moved into the automotive industry six years ago and has enjoyed rapid career development. I asked her to reflect on her career progression.
“To get where I am, I think I’ve moved quite quickly in the progression of things. Some mechanics downstairs still haven’t quite gotten that far in their careers. I don’t know whether it’s because they don’t want to, because they just haven’t pushed themselves, or they haven’t found the opportunities. Being a woman as well it kind of gave me opportunities in a way. It was, like, a negative-positive, if that makes sense.
But I proved myself as well. So I started as an MOT tester. And I just said, I’m getting bored, just doing the same thing over and over. Then there was an opportunity for a ramp in the workshop. I thought I’ll have a go, and within a week, I was meeting the targets of all the top technicians in the workshop and beating them. There was a lot of jealousy at first, and I’m like, well, I just work hard, you know, I just get on with it. I don’t piss about in the corner. I just do my job.”
What comes across from talking to Amber about her swift career progression in the industry is that she has made her own opportunities by volunteering for roles of interest, even when they are outside her comfort zone. Acknowledging her privilege of being part of a marginalised gender is a woke attitude. However, she has clearly earned the opportunities she has created for herself through grit, determination, hard work and targeted up-skilling.
I wondered whether Amber had found difficulties or challenges trying to ‘fit in’ in the industry.
“I think I’ve been really lucky in the sense that I’ve not come across anything major. No one has really stopped me from doing anything just because of my gender. And I feel I fit in quite well. I’m quite open anyway and outgoing. A spade is a spade to me. If I don’t like you, I’ll tell you. If I like you, I’ll tell you. And if I don’t like what’s going on, I will say something. But because I think I’ve stuck to who I am, that’s helped me with everything. There has been a couple of issues with some members of staff. I think it was a lot of jealousy because I was outperforming them. They would try and pick fault with what I was doing and go and tell tales. And that would get my back up a bit, but I was like, no, be professional about this.”
Amber’s skills measure up to and exceed those of her male colleagues in the MOT bay. However, there are some occasions when she needs to ask for help. For example, she does not have the same strength as some of her male colleagues. However, if she finds her colleagues disparaging, she meets it head-on with a healthy line of banter. She is happy to give as good as she gets that much is clear. She is also strong in her own boundaries and well-informed when it comes to workplace policy. These things have helped her to know when to escalate any issues to her managers.
“I did actually have an HR case against somebody for sexual harassment. But because I went through the correct procedures, everything was sorted out. I didn’t back myself into a corner, and I didn’t back down. I thought, no! Everyone’s got a right to speak. Everyone’s got a right to work. I’m saying my piece. That was it. I just stayed strong, knowing my colleagues would support me in that decision.
It was good that I did have a really good, supportive manager. If I didn’t have, I think things would have been really different. But having that supportive, managerial process around me was helpful because I knew that people were going to listen to both sides, and it was going to be sorted properly and professionally, to the book. I didn’t want it to be like, a slagging match or anything. It’s got to be done properly.”
Amber describes herself as a ‘go-getter’. The transferrable skills she has developed over the years and her natural tendency to seek improvement have helped her optimise workplace efficiency and quickly climb the ladder.
“The garage in Halifax where I started, I ended up running his two garages for him. Because with my background, I see how things can be improved and be more efficient in the workplace. I noticed that the MOT side wasn’t being utilised. There’s so much work you can get piggybacking off an MOT. So if you promote that, the rest sorts itself out. So I sorted out his MOT everything for him, and it actually started making a profit, and his businesses were booming. Unfortunately, I left, and he hasn’t found anybody as good as me. Ultimately at the end of the day, it’s all about getting that revenue in so that you can actually have a good life. Otherwise, you’re gonna work yourself into the grave, and it’s not healthy.”
Amber notes that she has experienced entrenched biases from old-school technicians and customers alike, questioning whether she can do the job because she is a woman. It has made her stay strongly aligned with her own motivation.
“I think the biggest challenge is me doubting myself. So like you say, I create my own opportunities. But then I will doubt it. And then I have to do it to know I can do it. That’s my biggest challenge; it’s me. But also the older generation. ‘Oh, a lady in the workshop. A lady can’t do that.’ So then it’s back to me again facing that doubt and going, actually, no, I’m not doing this to prove it to them. I’m doing it to prove it to myself. Because we’ve had a couple of customers coming in and going, ‘Oh, well, was that lady working on it? Obviously, it needs checking.’ And I’ve overhead, and I’ve just gone, ‘It’s ok, we check each other’s work’.
I think you’ve got to build up a thick skin. The bigger challenge is me not believing that I can do it. And then once I’ve done it, I’ve gone, yay, pat on the back.
For my biggest successes? I think it’s just getting where I am and having a smile on my face every day. I don’t do it to gain recognition. I just do it because I like to work. And I like to know that what I’m doing is paying off. And I think as well, the biggest challenge is bringing my team together and making them nice and cohesive rather than individual entities. We are a group, and we work together. We’re not in competition with each other. Because at the end of the day, we’re all doing the same job for the same reason.”
Is there anything the industry or the regulator could improve upon to support better testers learning?
“I find the DVSA training requirements very stagnant and convoluted, and it’s not easy for everybody to access, or it’s not inclusive. I’ve got some colleagues, who’ve got dyslexia, and it’s not just being able to read something. It’s that comprehension of what they’re reading. So for them to overcome that, it’s helpful to talk about it, to vocalise it, and have that chance to have that discussion. And then when it comes to the annual assessment, they say, you do it on your own. I feel that’s where the DVSA shoot themselves in the foot. It’s stopping potential really good testers from wanting to carry on because it’s difficult. These are very good skilled people who are leaving MOT testing due to the annual assessment.
You can go to training courses to do your CPD, and the ones I’ve been on are just so boring. It’s, here’s some questions, let’s answer them, and it’s just box-ticking, and I’m gonna do a block of three years in that time.
That’s why I like MOT Juice so much because it breaks it down. And it gives us opportunities to discuss everything, especially how it is now where all your juice members input questions, and then they’re used as part of the CPD. It’s fascinating! My team are now talking to each other. I encourage them to talk about it. We have weekly meetings and go, ‘did you see that? What do you think of that?’ They are talking more, and they’re asking me questions and asking each other questions. They pull each other into the bay and talk about what’s going on. ‘What do you think of this?’ And that’s the way I feel it should be because MOTs are an important thing. The DVSA need to understand that people are people, and we need to talk about things. It needs to be exciting.”
Amber is currently mentoring a female apprentice in her SM role, another opportunity she put herself forward for, initially planned for another of her colleagues. Amber was enthusiastic when asked if she had any advice for women starting or considering starting in this industry.
“Well, I think if you’re thinking about it, you have obviously got to do it. You will only regret the things you don’t do. Even if it doesn’t work out, is that the end of the world? No. You’ve gained some experience from it, and you can move on with that. And if it’s a passion, just keep going. And be yourself. Just be who you are. And you won’t regret having a try, you know. Just give it a try.”
I think that’s excellent advice for life, not just for business, and I think we can all take inspiration from Amber and the great things that can happen if you go out and create the opportunities you seek.