RAC: Driving Quality in Staff Training

Since its foundation in 1897 the RAC has been at the forefront of motoring services - from introducing uniformed patrols in 1901 to today’s state-of-the-art computer systems dealing with calls for roadside assistance.

With approximately 1,500 patrols attending around 2.5 million rescue breakdowns a year, the RAC needs efficient staff with people skills to cope with the demands of incoming calls to its busy Birmingham headquarters. It has recruited nearly 70 apprentices with Intec since 2013 and has been working with the company on work-based learning programmes since 2005.

Janet Westley, HR Business Consultant for RAC Operations, says: ‘It’s essential we employ the right people on the phones to support our members - who could be frightened, anxious or annoyed while at the same time logging quickly and accurately the nature of the problem.

‘Intec and its recruitment service have been instrumental in helping us to find good quality candidates for this role. The people Intec send to us are so strong in fact that we could recruit more than we have vacancies for, which is a nice problem to have.’

The selection process is rigorous. Intec screens both internal and external applicants and conducts an initial interview. The preferred candidates then visit the RAC to undertake the next stage – a full assessment centre.

Apprentices have four weeks’ training before taking any calls and are assigned a mentor, then initially deal with straightforward calls such as battery failure, building on their knowledge over 12 months to include more advanced calls, such as signing up new members or helping motorists needing a recovery truck.

The one-year apprenticeships lead to an NVQ Level 2 in Customer Services and provide substantial on-the-job training, with all apprentices aspiring to achieve the RAC status of Specialist Level Colleague. The RAC then aims to provide either a permanent position or a further fixed term contract for those who are successful.

It can be a difficult environment and it’s a tough job at peak times, such as in winter, but as Janet explains: ‘The RAC has a good reward structure, we invest in our apprentices; we are in it for the long term and are committed to their development, and the opportunity to learn in parallel with a job is fantastic both for the apprentice and for us.’

The RAC is so impressed with the success of its apprenticeship programme with Intec that it has now extended it to cover its Deployment Centre, which sends out patrols following the initial breakdown call. Offering apprenticeships has become a key part of the RAC’s recruitment strategy, with plans to take on a dozen more apprentices in 2015.

‘It’s been a really positive working relationship with Intec,’ says Janet. ‘The team come in once a month to see all our apprentices and deliver training onsite,which works really well for us, and the calibre of recruitment is second-to-none. The ones who come through the training successfully go on to become some of our top performers.’