Sunday, 18 January 2009

Qualifying as a Fleet Trainer - Is it worth it?

At the moment, many instructors are struggling to find learners to pay their wages.

Some are leaving the industry, some are cutting prices to compete, some are looking to use their skills in a wider market - Fleet.

Could this be the next get rich quick scheme?

Some fleet qualification suppliers are really pushing their courses at the moment, with promises of regular daytime/weekday work, paid by the day or half day as the incentive to train, but what is the reality behind this?

There are rumours of free fleet qualification courses (I'd love to be able to publicise these, but the guys who say they have been on them won't give out the details for some reasons.), but on average, the costs for DSA approved fleet diploma courses range from between £800-£1500, which is not a small investment, considering you will also need to take around a week off from your paid job.

For this you get a lovely orange badge from the DSA, which is often only recognised as an "entry qualification" by many fleet providers.

To get to the point where these providers will actually employ you, you may then be required to take another course in order to work for them - often another week off work and up to £1000.

This is before you get any work and will rarely guarantee you anything at all.

One of my colleagues who runs a successful fleet company is receiving around 5 CVs a week from fleet trainers with many years of experience and often with a plethora of qualifications.

Unfortunately he only takes on around 1 new trainer a year, and he reckons he is only able to offer them around 2 or 3 weeks work a year, often in specialist areas due to the over-supply of "standard" fleet training.

However, you know me by now and I have to say that there IS work out there. There is huge potential for professional driver training across the whole of the UK, but in an economic downturn, this may not be the right time to expect it to be the golden shot for your business plan.

So what if you've done your training, you've got some skills that the fleet companies want, you've managed to speak to the right people and have convinced them of your worth and they've offered you work.

How much is it worth?

Well the worrying bit is that some fleet providers are paying highly qualified trainers as little as £100/day. That's for a 9-5 job effectively. This wouldn't be so bad if you could get 4 or 5 days of this a week, but the reality of the fleet market for freelance trainers is that you will probably only get the odd sporadic day (or worse - half day).

You will need to re-arrange your current (and often loyal) customers around these odd days of work. You may need to travel up to 150 miles to provide this training, and not all providers will cover your travel costs.

But what about providing your own training - yep, go indy?!

Well, if you have the skills, you could charge from £250 - £500/day for your services, but remember that for each of these days you provide, you will need to spend time gaining the contract, working the contract, then providing all of the relevant back-up to service that contract. One day at £350 could take 3 days of work. And that's if you manage to get the work at all. You could easily spend a couple of days trying to win a contract worth just a few hundred pounds only to find that your competitors have undercut you, or that they simply come across as more professional.

So after that long post - the question remains - Is it worth it?

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Is becoming an instructor a good way to spend your redundancy?

There's been a massive increase in people searching for a few worrying things since the start of the credit crunch, though at least a few have got their heads screwed on, as we keep turning up for "driving instructor earnings".

Unfortunately though, we also seem to turn up far more often for searches for training with the big providers.

All we can say is - if you read what they tell you, then remember that EVERYTHING they say is designed to get you to buy their product. Even the ones who are "honest" about the business still want you to buy.

At the moment the reality is not good. Just have a look in your local paper - driving instructors are giving stuff away cheaper than Woolworths - for exactly the same reasons. They're going under and are desperate to get money in.

The simple facts mean that any driving instructor who is charging less than £10/hour is losing money. Actively GIVING MONEY AWAY in the hope that they will bring in work and that those people who feel that £10 should be the hourly rate for an instructor will stay with them when they put their prices up to £17/hour.

Fact is they won't.

The REALLY scary bit is this - the people trying to flog you instructor training will then expect you to put up with this kind of thing when you are a franchisee -

  1. Surepass have a really STUPID OFFER, which makes you wonder whether this major driving instructor training provider has enough work for it's instructors.
  2. Bill Plant are also guilty of idiotic irony, on this page which shows a load of ridiculous offers, desperate to drag work in, yet still has the brass neck to suggest "INSTRUCTORS URGENTLY REQUIRED"!!!! Must be frickin joking.
  3. Or the wonderful irony of Passmasters page with (in their words) "slashed prices" on the same site as the page offering a "guaranteed position" but remember, this is NOT A JOB, this is a guarantee that they will let you become a customer and pay them a franchise - talk about positive spin!!
(These links will be removed soon as I don't like giving these morons any more publicity or search engine help. Their franchisees are already paying for this kind of lunacy, I don't want to add to it.)

These are just a few of the offers. Even BSM and the other big guys are having to offer reductions and daft discounts.

Some companies will bear the cost of these discounts and as they may actually help to keep up your supply of customers you may not mind that the customers then disappear after the offer has finished - you still get paid don't you? Well, yep. But who's paying for the offers again? Oh yes, it's the franchise fee YOU pay every week to the company who are generously footing the bill for the discounts.

In the meantime the public are beginning to believe that the right price for driving lessons is around £10-£15/hour, when really this would leave the average instructor earning around half the minimum wage for every hour they work (they usually work around 1.5 hours for every hour they actually get paid and overheads are between £5-£10/hour).

Worst is when the franchise advertise these offers then "recommend" that their instructors offer the discounts themselves (or worse insist that they do) at which point the average instructor can actually find themselves paying for the priviledge of working.

So what do you think - is becoming a driving instructor a good way of spending your redundancy?

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Look for space

This is a personal message.

I rant so often on here, I thought I better write something positive for once. (Don't worry, normal service will be resumed shortly!)

You can take this however you like, whether driving, testing, teaching or just as a motto to live life by.

Look for Space.

What do I mean by this?

Well we spend too much time looking for trouble, as drivers spotting hazards, as assessors and examiners and trainers looking for faults, as human beings looking for trouble. It's how we've evolved.

The only problem with this is that by looking for trouble we so often find it.

There is a common effect which any driving instructor will tell you about - our customers are trained (from the HPT onwards) to look for potential hazards, that we start to concentrate on them. Learners will naturally look at the problem and as the hands follow the eyes they will steer towards it. We often do the same in life - we look for problems and by looking for them we find them and hit them head on.

Many trainers are aware of the power of a positive instruction (as opposed to the classic "don't think of pink elephants" problem), where you encourage a positive response, which for some reason gets a much more immediate and positive reaction. If you say "don't think of pink elephants" you think of them, then need a moment to clear your head, or often, you can't get the damn things out at all.

If you want someone not to think about pink elephants, tell them "think about the full moon on a clear bright cold night". The effect is immediate, needing no concious thought to change what we are doing.

The human brain has evolved to think in terms of positives. This means that a negative suggestion will take concious effort to apply. "Don't annoy uncle Doreen this Christmas", will have a completely different response initially to "Be nice to uncle Doreen" (until uncle Doreen sits in your favourite chair and looks like he/she is expecting to have everything done for him/her for the entire festive season at least).

So yes, we should be aware of the potential problems, but instead of thinking "don't hit the parked car", start looking for space. If you can't find it, or it is restricted - slow down until you can find it.

Back to the personal note - start thinking in terms of what you SHOULD do, CAN do and COULD do. If you are thinking of what you don't want to do - do what the shrinks would term "re-framing" - start to think of that thing in terms that positively steer you into a good place.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Training to pass a test?

There's a lot of instructors around who will quote a thousand and one qualifications at you to prove how good they are (I even know of one who advertises that he is a cycling proficiency trainer! I'm pretty sure this is slightly tongue in cheek as he seems like a pretty good ADI).

But what actually qualifies them to teach you?

The simple answer is that green badge. (The pink one will do, but this actually means they're ALLOWED to teach, but not QUALIFIED.)

So what does this mean?

Well, in some situations it means that they've taught themselves pretty much, maybe they've had a week or so's training, sometimes they've taken a bit longer and had maybe 60+ hours of training to actually teach someone to drive.

But how relevant is this?

The first problem with getting that green badge is that it is all about performing set exercises (imagine an exam when you know the possible questions beforehand), which are actually quite simple to practice. This doesn't mean that it is simple to pass - the majority of people are trained so badly that they do not understand the basic key principles of teaching (trained by people who profess to know them, but who then ignore them when it comes to training the trainers!).

I myself really did not understand the core competencies when I passed my part 3 to become a qualified ADI. I was lucky that my ability at levels of instruction and Q and A got me through.

The second problem is to do with the way that ADI training courses are run - they are run in the same way that the worst ADIs practice - they teach you to pass the test, but when presented by something out of the ordinary (the L-test that goes off route, or the ADI test where the examiner starts asking awkward questions or making mistakes that you weren't primed for) they have no idea how to handle them.

So what is the solution?

The solution is for ADIs to be trained in teaching before they are trained for the pre-set tests of the part 3 exam.

For all of you out there who are training to be ADIs who are wondering when it will all start to make sense - either your trainer is failing you, by not starting at the beginning, but throwing you into "big picture" training too early, or you are failing yourself by not asking your trainer to explain exactly what they mean at EVERY stage.

How should you learn?

Well it should have started with your part 2 training - understanding why you were doing all of this stuff, with commentary driving to explain every step you take. Then it should move on to the simplest of tasks - guided instruction, broken down in detail, and explained simply and clearly.

From here you should repeat the same task at the prompted stage, and then you should learn to grade your instruction from one to the other, incrementally changing from full instruction through to early clear prompting and finally to the subtlest of hints.

Then you need to be able to read your student to assess which level they need, and to understand the point at which they need no more instruction at that skill, while anticipating things which may mean that you need to quickly leap in with full guided instruction again at a moment's notice.

This is how people learn new skills - it is also how to correct faults in the skills someone already has (core-comps - sorting the fault).

Only once an instructor can understand these levels of instruction can they start even thinking about fault spotting and analysis.

Who cares about briefings, who cares about recaps, who cares about whether the PST starts in the test centre car park or not?

Build the foundations first.

How well qualified are ADIs? It all depends on the quality of their training.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Using a driving instructor's car for test

People who just want to use my car for the driving test make me laugh.

When they ask, I usually bite my tongue and ask them why? Hell - why not use your own?

I even had a parent ask me this and I asked them why they would not lend them theirs (they had been teaching their son in it) as he would be more used to it - and what was their response?

"What if he crashes it?"


So him crashing my only source of income would be ok then would it?

Not a chance guys. If you want a car for the test - hire one.

If you want someone to teach you to drive - phone a driving instructor - not a car hire firm.

Just in case you're confused, you can take any car to a driving test as long as it is in a fit condition to use on the road (would pass an MOT on the day, including having no warning lights, everything works) and it is insured for the purposes of the test (check with your insurance company, they usually are, but some will stipulate that you tell them - if you don't and you crash on test then you're not covered and you can guarantee that the examiner will sue you for lots and lots of money - get it sorted). It needs tax and a valid MOT and remember that the examiner will ask the candidate to check certain things on the vehicle before the test starts (lights, brake lights, screenwash maybe.....) so don't turn up in a wreck, or you'll have wasted your fee.

The car does not need dual controls, the car does not need to be of a certain size.

The DSA have a list of unsuitable vehicles (vans without rear side windows, some convertibles), which are deemed unsuitable purely because of the vision from the examiner's seat.

So please - stop asking us this dumb question. We would be stupid to say yes.

Monday, 22 September 2008

Intensive Driving Instructor Courses

This one has turned up a couple of times recently.

There's a few companies who suggest that you can train intensively to become a driving instructor - very tempting if you've just lost your job or taken redundancy, or even if you're thinking about changing careers and want as little time "sans-wage" as possible.

The fact is though - it's a long process.

There's 3 exams to pass, each with their attendant waiting times (2 weeks minimum for part 1, then 5 weeks ish for part 2 and another 5 weeks for part 3).

There's also the Criminal Records Bureau checks, which can take a couple of months to sort out.

Both Passmasters and The Instructor College supposedly offer intensive courses - one of these is advertised as a 2 week course to learn everything you need to know to become a driving instructor!!!!!!!

Yeah right.

In the real world - you'll need to study like hell to get through part 1 (don't bother paying anyone to train you for this - you can do it with nothing more than the internet and the instructor forums - if you have a trainer lined up for the rest of the training they'll help you out over the phone and email for nowt usually).

For part 2, unless you are already an advanced driver capable of a very high standard of driving (IAM would get you close, RoSPA Gold would get you closer, DIAmond is the same as part 2), you'll need a good few hours - reckon on between 10 and 20 hours of training. Add on to this all of the private practice you will need to do to make sure these techniques are what you do ALL THE TIME, not just on your training sessions, and you'll find that you've done around 120 hours of driving before you take the test. Even if you have passed an advanced test, you'll want to have a couple of sessions to check you're up to the right standard at the time and working to the same standard that the DSA expect of you.

Then comes part 3.

Well the training companies usually recommend 40 hours of part 3 training, and will often insist that you throw yourself into one of your three part 3 attempts before they offer any more, whether you are ready or not.

The reality is that unless you are already a trainer or a coach, you will need around 60 hours of training for this part of the process.

Despite the promises of the big schools - you will probably find that you can't get enough training when you need it ("sorry, our next available appointment for you is at 2am on February 37th 2019, but of course this will be free under our promise of all the training you need - thank-you for training with us, have a nice day"). Many potential instructors find that despite signing up for a training "package", they still need to pay for extra training out of their own pocket to enable them to complete the 3 parts before their 2 years is up.

So - are intensive driving instructor training courses worth looking at?

Don't be bloody stupid.

So what should you do?

Look for a good trainer in your area and make sure that they can fit you in. Never pay for more than one session in advance (this way you can leave without being tied in to paying £4k to a company who can't fulfil their promises). Always expect it to be harder than you think - it probably will be.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Lots of hits for Driving Instructor Earnings

I'm still getting lots of hits from the search engines for Driving Instructor Earnings, so I thought I'd offer you guys some links:

  1. Driving Instructor Earnings Calculator - though not entirely accurate, this is worth a look. If you think things through carefully you can actually get a reasonable impression of how hard you'll have to work. Bear in mind that for every 1 hour lesson you give, you'll need to work for around 1.5 hours, for every 2 hour lesson - 2.5 hours. Don't forget to look at the "after tax" bit!
  2. Becoming a Driving Instructor - The Truth Behind the TV Ads - A great article about whether it's worth becoming a driving instructor or not.
  3. So you want to be a driving instructor? - A real article by a real instructor. No, he's not a happy bunny.
  4. Instructor Training Colleges and Empty Promises - The infamous "Money for Cold Hope" article from the respected industry representatives - the Driving Instructors Association.
  5. Driving Instructor Pay - How much you could earn - the optimistic but realistic version.
  6. Driving Standards Agency Forum Thread - boy was this guy not happy when he posted.
  7. Driving Instructor Jobs - Advice from Career Scotland, with the very interesting fact that only 4% of ADIs have flexible hours. ("Work the hours to suit you" indeed. Please add "r customers" to that statement.)
  8. Money Saving Expert - An interesting thread from a non-ADI forum. Friends, relatives and Instructors tell their side of things.
  9. Becoming an ADI - the 2pass view, written by an ADI.
  10. Real driving lesson prices - what we see every day, just for when you are working out how much you'll earn based on £20/hour.
After reading those you should get a realistic idea of what you can expect. Good luck.