A new initiative has been launched to help supply of skilled apprentices for historic vehicles long into the future. Cambridge & Counties Bank, which offers finance for classic car purchases, has announced it is to become official ‘Finance Partner’ to the Federation of Historic Vehicle Clubs (FBHVC), supporting the federation’s Heritage Engineering Apprenticeship scheme with bursaries and business education.

The bank launched its specialist classic car division in the spring, and by September had already lent out £2million to finance the purchase of classic machinery. Its scheme offers loans from £63k to £1.5million, placing it at the higher end of the market, but it’s looking at the bigger picture too. The partnership with the FBHVC goes in at the grass roots level, helping to ensure the industry supporting the classic car scene can continue to thrive.

Although the scene is getting bigger, paradoxically there’s a shortage in the skills needed to support it. Beyond basic servicing needs, keeping a classic happy requires knowledge passed on from previous generations, and as an ageing workforce reaches retirement it often doesn’t have an opportunity to pass on its skills due to a lack of new recruits. To solve this, the industry has a desperate need for fresh faces.

The FBHVC was instrumental in introducing a classic vehicle restoration course in 2014 under the government’s framework for apprentices. Covering new ground meant that lessons would inevitably be learnt, and the model for separate collages in different locations to run the course wasn’t as successful as hoped. However, a change in government funding known as the Trailblazer programme, allowed to FBHVC to get a new scheme in place with the Department for Education. A new block release course with a new syllabus was the result, called The Heritage Engineering Apprenticeship.

The course is the only one of its kind accredited by the Office of Qualifications and Examinations (OFQUAL), and students that complete the full term will leave with a nationally recognised Advanced Diploma in Heritage Engineering with an option to specialise for a further year. The course covers a range of sectors, including classic motor vehicles, aviation, marine and steam.

This is run at the Federation’s own facility at Bicester Heritage, and is working very successfully. Currently 36 apprentices are being trained, and with 60 expected by spring, a second building looks set to be added. The federation also have an option on a third, with a desire to deliver extra coach-building and trim modules. The potential for growth is massive.


The introduction of the Trailblazer scheme brings about a major advantage over what went before. Previously, government apprenticeship funding was only provided for 16-18 years olds, but that’s no longer the case. “The advantage of the Trailblazer scheme we have is that there is no age bar,” said FBHVC Chairman David Whale. “So if you get people coming out of the military looking to train for a new career for instance, or someone who wants a change, then they can take the Trailblazer course, and that’s major step forward. Currently we have an age range of 16-49.”

Another advantage is that block release nature of the course means that apprentices are taken on by a local business, and only travel to Bicester Heritage for a week at a time, nine times a year. Providing the student can make that trip, geography is no longer an issue. They won’t have to live close to Bicester to study, meaning the pool of willing apprentices should be able to expand without restriction just so long as the travel and accommodation costs can be covered.

That’s where Cambridge & Counties Bank comes in, by providing £10,000 bursaries. The money will be made available via an application process to help with travel and accommodation, with the potential of getting new careers started. Karl Carter, FBHVC training and skills director, said: “For small businesses, the issue is not the cost of the apprenticeship, because we manage to get £26,000 for the three years from the government. Small employers often don’t mind paying the apprentice, and as long the training is paid for that’s fine, but there are nine weeks away through the year which have to be covered. That’s why bursaries work very nicely.”


The support from Cambridge and Counties Bank is not just financial however, as it will also be designing and delivering the business modules within the curriculum too. Managers and key subject experts from within the bank will be passing on training to ensure the apprentices are fully equipped with the skills and knowledge they need to run a business and manage finances.

Mike Kirsopp, CEO of Cambridge and Counties Bank explained: “It is vitally important that we nurture and support skills for the future. Apprentices entering the world of heritage engineering will likely be working within small businesses or a business of their own and so equipping them with the understanding of finance, cash flow, accounting and asset management will be critical to their future success. We have the expertise and passion here at Cambridge & Counties Bank to support these students and play our part in preserving the future for historic vehicles.”

Five years ago, the FBHVC had a single revenue stream, and that was per capita payment that the members of its clubs paid per year. But now, a more diverse income has expanded what can be achieved. “Having Cambridge & Counties Bank as our finance partner will help the Federation in its work to champion the cause of transport heritage in the UK,” added David Whale. “The bank’s approach to supporting our students through a balance of commercial assistance and the offer of training and apprenticeships reflects their obvious commitment to supporting the classic car sector and the thousands of skilled jobs it creates.”

Clearly there’s still a long way to go to ensure vital skills are not lost in an ever-changing and growing classic car industry, but this new development is another significant step in the right direction. For more information to apply for the bursary, head to the FBHVC website at www.fbhvc.co.uk or call 01708 223111.