Being recognised as an IMI Outstanding Achiever is a worthy accolade in itself, but as 2013 finalist Mel MacDonald found out, it can also be of real benefit to your career.
Mel MacDonald had always had her heart set on being a paint specialist; in June last year completed her Level 3 qualification at Gateshead College and started looking for work.
Her tutors at Gateshead had recognised Mel as having the right mix of talent and enthusiasm to succeed in the industry, and so decided they would put her up for an IMI Outstanding Achievers Award in the paint category.
Against strong competition, she was selected as one of four finalists for her category and attended the awards ceremony at the IMI headquarters, Fanshaws, in October last year.
"Being a finalist in the Outstanding Achievers Awards was a great confidence boost, and although I wasn't the outright winner, being shortlisted taught me that I was good at something, that I must have good technique or a good talent", she said.
"After leaving college it took me six months to find a job, but I have no doubt that being a finalist helped me get there. The fact that I'd been chosen from a large number of people, that I travelled down to the awards ceremony, met HRH Prince Michael of Kent, and been recognised by the industry, really made me stand out as a job candidate", she said.
Mel, who is 22, started working as a smart repairer for Evans Halshaw in Gateshead in January this year, and is sub-contracted to a Renault dealership that sells new and used cars.
"This is absolutely my dream job, and being part of the Outstanding Achievers Awards was what got me here. The awards look very impressive to an employer and helped to boost my confidence. Getting the job boosted my confidence even more", she said.For the first year of the job, Mel will be a trainee, but after then she will get her own van and be sub-contracted to her own site. "With Evans Halshaw you get to change the dealerships you work for, so there is quite a lot of variety in the job.
"You are working with a lot of different brands, so you have to get to know each one. With some of the bigger brands there is a really high finish, so you have to be really spot on. I am often dealing with cars that are fairly new with some quite visible damage, and you have to bring that back to its original condition. It can be quite a challenge, but it's amazing how much you learn in the first few months", she said.
Mel's plans in the longer term, once she has gained a few years of experience, is to set up and run her own paint and body shop.
"IMI has been a really good ground for my career so far, and I will definitely continue training with them. If I want to have my own business, I will need to learn the business management and financial side", she said.
This year's awards, which are sponsored by Euro Car Parts, Automotive Toolzone, Denso, Elring/KPSG and Garage Data Systems; will take place at the Heritage Motor Centre in Gaydon, the home of the world’s largest collection of British cars, on 23rd October 2014. The awards will be presented by the patron of the IMI Group, His Royal Highness Prince Michael of Kent.