The team sat down with Peter Brabin, one of the company’s longest-serving members, to discuss how his career in the driver trainer industry has progressed over the years. Peter started his new career as a Driving Instructor, became a well-respected ORDIT Trainer and currently works to educate the next wave of market-leading Driving Instructors, as Bill Plant Driving School’s Head of Training.
What jobs were you doing before you became a Driving Instructor and when did you begin your career in this industry?
I graduated with a BSC Hons degree in 1984 in Catering Systems Management and then spent the next 9 years of my professional career in the airline industry, dealing with inflight catering. I then chose to move into civil engineering as a Regional Construction Manager, which involved helping to construct the cable television network for Virgin Media. As the industry changed, I took voluntary redundancy after 7 years and then set up my own catering business with my wife. This proved very successful for me, working in a self-employed role, and so having sold the business a few years later, I then decided to become a Driving Instructor!
What made you choose to train to become a Driving Instructor and when did you start?
I started in the industry way back in 2003! Having worked for many years in both an employed and self-employed capacity, I was sure that I wanted to remain self-employed, just like with my own catering business. The key difference between these roles, and ultimately why I chose to become an instructor, was that I really wanted to help provide skills to others, many of which I had picked up throughout my career, in particular coaching and teaching. Driving instruction seemed to me a natural choice, both my parents had been teachers themselves, so I suppose you could say that it was in the genes!
How did your new career begin?
Bill Plant Driving School was solely a driving school in those days, without the nationwide network of established trainers that it has today. Having finished my training and having become a qualified Driving Instructor, from that point onwards it was a matter of deciding on the driving school that I wanted to join. Bill’s ambitions were clear and his school truly stood out above all others. It always seemed to me to be a driving school that was going to go places in the years ahead.
What inspired you to become an ORDIT trainer?
Career progression had always been a key desire for me and so ORDIT training was a natural choice. As a Driving Instructor, you always get a buzz when you meet pupils out on the road who you’ve taught to drive. That’s great, of course, but for me, nothing beats the feeling of getting to see a fellow professional earning a living through the career you’ve helped them to achieve!
How do you feel training PDIs differs from training learner drivers?
In many ways the training is similar. You are looking at working with the candidates’ goals and needs in mind, keeping the lesson safe at all times, and making sure that quality learning takes place throughout the sessions. In that respect, there are many similar attributes. The skills gained teaching learner drivers can really help ORDIT trainers, especially with their role play.
One of the main differences between coaching PDIs and learner drivers is the experience that PDIs bring with them. This can be both an advantage and a disadvantage. The advantage is that you are working with clients who can bring a lot to the table from previous driving experience. The disadvantage is, conceptually, exactly the same. Teaching a learner driver, you are most often working with a blank canvas to start off, while with PDIs you may have to debug the system and unpick some of the bad habits that they may have acquired, to help them best understand how to move forward!
What attributes make a successful ORDIT trainer?
What makes a successful ORDIT trainer? That’s a really good question! First of all, the desire to succeed really has to be there, because this is a profession that requires a lot of dedication. You need to be committed to your craft and have the right attitude, to help best educate potential trainees to become the industry leading Driving Instructors of the future.
In terms of practical requirements, at a basic level, successful trainers need to have good theoretical and practical understanding of the skills and attributes required to ensure trainees can pass through their qualifying exams. Trainers are, in the main, now required to have a Grade A on their Standards Check too. Candidates need to fundamentally understand Client Centred Learning (CCL), because it’s essential that they adapt to who they’re working with, rather than having students always trying to adapt to them and a “one-size-fits-all” teaching style.
ORDIT trainers constantly have to adapt whilst coaching, which is, in of itself, another essential skill to acquire. Trainers should aim to remain up to date with the industries’ training requirements and wider legislation to maximise their quality of tuition. Undertaking background reading and taking the initiative to complete individual research and personal development is naturally a great skill to have here.
Lastly, I fundamentally believe trainers should have a good sense of humour alongside strong interpersonal skills. This is very much a ‘people industry’, and trainers sometimes get too hung up on the technical details whilst omitting the importance of building good rapports with trainees, similarly to pupils.
What is the best advice you would give to someone looking to become an ORDIT trainer?
Always focus on personal improvement in every lesson you deliver, self-reflection is key! At Bill Plant Driving School, we will always do our utmost to help ADIs achieve a Grade A in their Standards Check and we can provide all the training required that aspiring candidates must undertake to become successful ORDIT trainers, but without the right focus and application, it will be much harder to get there.
You should always be willing and never be afraid to ask for constructive feedback. Asking your local ORDIT trainer to sit in on your lessons with your pupils for example, and subsequently taking on board the constructive feedback you will get, will help you enormously in this regard.
As Bill Plant Driving School’s Head of Training, what are the key functions of the role?
When I first started years ago, we had a relatively small network of trainers and so one of my key tasks was to build and develop both a skilled and motivated team of industry leading Driving Instructor Trainers to teach trainees the skills they needed to become successful ADIs. In effect, I am one of relatively few in this industry who are qualified to train new Driving Instructor Trainers!
Managing existing trainers and recruiting new talent to our nationwide trainer network, alongside maintaining and improving our training products, is a key focus of the role. One must always seek to keep up with regulatory changes and diversify our options to meet new trainees’ requirements.
Finally, keeping a close working relationship with key members of the DVSA, is integral too. Heading up the Training Academy means that I feel a great responsibility to continually improve the customer experience for all trainees who choose to join Bill Plant Driving School, regardless of where they are in their journey.
When I’m out personally delivering courses, it is always great to hear that the vast majority of candidates have carefully researched the training industry and chosen Bill Plant Driving School as their first choice – it is a real stamp of recognition for all the work myself and the team do on a daily basis to uphold our high standard of training.
What is your favourite part of working for Bill Plant Driving School?
Every day is unique, and one of my favourite facets of working at Bill Plant Driving School is simply the enjoyment I have in making the best out of each day that myself and the team spends developing market leading Driving Instructors. Quite simply, it’s the variety that each day brings with the people that you meet that I love. Additionally, linked to this, another favourite has to be celebrating the positive news of the ‘next success’ with the rest of the team. The achievement of helping our home-grown PDIs qualify as ADIs is truly second to none.
As someone at the top of their profession, what do you look for in candidates, when you are assessing trainees who want to become Driving Instructor Trainers?
Certainly the following: Desire, and a strong passion for learning and self-development, are crucial. Good people skills such as communication and empathy are also integral. A Driving Instructor trainer needs to understand that people learn differently and adapt to find the best ways to teach them. Remaining self-motivated and at the same time being a team player helps to no end and I’m particularly careful to look for trainers who’ll want to remain part of the Bill Plant Driving School family and be part of something bigger!
What are the biggest achievements of your career? Do you have any sentimental stories that you would like to share about your profession?
Quite a few things come to mind, but I think that seeing how the Training Department has grown over the years, and seeing where Bill Plant Driving School is now, at the top of the industry, is probably the most satisfying achievement in my career. Writing my book, “Qualified”, to share with the industry, was certainly something I’d never have even dreamed of being possible when I started, so that has to rank towards the top of my personal achievements too!
Driving qualifications such as being an ADI, ORDIT trainer and Fleet trainer are continuous lifelong achievements that sit well with me but as Head of Training, I’ve always wanted to assess myself with external trainers too. For that reason, I studied advanced driving with RoSPA and have achieved the gold standard on three occasions and gained a Distinction – Customised Award – Level 4 Advanced Behavioural Driver Training (Diploma).
While the latter one’s are all personal achievements, I know that the best of the bunch has been to see how well the team has developed and grown over the years. The Bill Plant Driving School Training Academy’s success is certainly something I will forever be very proud of.
What are your thoughts on the future of the driver training industry, post Covid-19?
The industry was certainly hit hard initially during the pandemic with lessons put on hold, however, the last 18 months have been a period of reflection for many people in different industries. We’re now finding a lot of people have had time to think about their futures and see Driving Instruction as a really desirable career move.
With hundreds of thousands of cancelled driving tests due to lockdowns and approximately 4000 new 17-year olds per day unable to start their lessons, demand is massively outstripping supply for driving lessons and should do for the foreseeable future!
Taking these factors into account, alongside our lesson price increases, the future of the Driver Training Industry looks very positive! The main challenge in the years ahead will be adapting to the continually evolving types of vehicles seen on the road, as we move away from carbon fuel, towards hybrid and fully electric vehicles, but for now, just enjoy the moment!
We thank Peter for his continued excellent work towards managing our Driving Instructor Training Academy alongside his team of industry-leading Driving Instructor Trainers.