Andy Kent and I - in front of his
garage in Bar Hill, Cambridgeshire
Then, I heard from a good colleague and friend called Terry Harding about Andy Kent and his garage, right near where we live, in Bar Hill (Cambridgeshire). I called Andy and asked if he wanted to speak at the event and he said he was coming to it anyway and he was more than happy to talk about his work. So, from being an attendee in the audience, trying to learn something new about equality in employment, Andy all of the sudden became the life of the show, as he mesmerised us all with the stories he told about his repair garage and the fantastic work they do!
|Andy's own garage in Bar Hill called |
Lucky (if you can call having a stroke “luck”!) he had just finished his qualification as a motor mechanic and was able to continue to work in the industry, ending up as a garage manager and director, working for someone else. He turned that garage into a highly profitable business and whilst Andy was recovering in hospital from an operation; surprise, surprise... the owners sold the business to someone else!
|Andy Kent fulfilled his dream to own|
a garage that would make a difference
Quite simple, really... Simple, but hard! How many people would you know who think to themselves: “I want to start a company, not for the profit but for the people who work in it”?! If this was the philosophy of all of the corporations around the world, we would probably be living in... Utopia – where everyone goes to work for the joy and fun of it and not for the need to work and support their families! Yet, it is people like Andy who force the barriers we have imposed ourselves that get the world to advance and perhaps one day... create Utopia!
|Andy works with people who are |
disadvantaged or have special needs
In order to be able to get the best out of his staff, he had to find equipment that was best suited to their INDIVIDUAL needs. Here is the key, he looked at each person’s needs individually, he did not just tick a few boxes for the sake of legislation and said “sorted! We have now made the reasonable adjustments, let’s get to work!”. He also looked back at his own experience, what were the barriers he overcame, what made him overcome those barriers, what motivated him to go further?
|Charisse - one of Andy's apprentices|
This experience helped Andy understand other people with various challenges and works to help them overcome those challenges by finding out what they really want, what is their life dream and he tries to show them that it’s possible, it’s achievable!
|Ramp Designed by Andy for|
use by wheelchair apprentices
But Andy’s Kars’ achievements don’t stop in the garage; ten years ago he modified one of the ramps they use for lifting cars up so that wheelchair users could get under the cars and repair them. Mercedes were rather impressed with this “new tool” which inspired them to make some adaptations of their own in their garages!
|Andy's Different Colours|
Here are ten things Andy’s Kars have done to enable staff and apprentices to work and learn in their workshop:
- They give each of them a Dictaphone to play back discussions and training given
- They have a Flip Video recorder for the students to record how they repaired a car and if they forget, to play it back so they know how to do it again
- They have different coloured recycling bins so that students can identify which goes where without having to read labels
- They have spanners in different colours so they can differentiate them better
- Their risk assessment manual is made of pictures, rather than just words so it is easier to go through and understand
- They made gloves that hold spanners
- They use a manual forklift to lift things so that people do not have to bend if they have back problems
- They put big lights up as indicators, for example above a socket to clearly show that it is turned ON
- They allow time to work through challenges and reflect on the ways in which they could change things to help staff in their work
- They have a supporting aid to help people with upper back, shoulder problems to access the worktop
|Supporting Aid Designed by Andy|
to aid staff with upper back problems
|Andy's Spanners of Different Colours|
|Andy's Manual Forklift|
With Andy, it’s not just about repairing cars, it’s about people! He works with disabled and disadvantaged people, teaching them skills they will have for the rest of their lives and allowing them to get a qualification and even a job! This gives the British tax payer the opportunity to keep our tax money whilst giving disabled people the opportunity to be independent! I don’t think we can get a better deal than that!