The original Pitstop project began in 1995 as part of a local charity in a block of disused and vandalised garages in Canning Town. Initially we were dealing with students who, for one reason or another, were outside the mainstream education system and referred to us by the PRU's (Pupil Referral Units) as well as dealing with the unemployed referred to us under the 18-24 'New Deal' programme.
Pitstop became popular and soon outgrew those premises. In 1998 we moved to larger premises to enable us to cater for the increased demand. The new premises also allowed us to operate as a fully functioning garage and MOT testing station. Apart from raising revenue, any work that was required on vehicles enabled our students to gain real-world training and assessments in motor vehicle repair. Since 2006, Pitstop has been a major placement provider with the London Borough of Newham education department to provide places for mainstream school students on their NAP (Newham Additional Provision) programme. NAP allows mainstream students to chose an off-site vocational option to be taken in their final two years of schooling where students attend one day per week throughout years 10 and 11, returning to their respective schools in May of their final year to sit their GCSE's.
Pitstop was a popular NAP option and demand always outstripped supply.
At the beginning of the school summer break in July 2010 due to events beyond the control of the Pitstop staff, the lease on the Pitstop premises came to an end. With the loss of the premises and despite a successful 15 year run, the operation was forced to shut down. With the failure of the charity to secure suitable alternative local premises, the Pitstop staff were laid off and it looked to be the end of a successful, popular and self-financing training operation.
Fortunately, the Pitstop manager who had been the driving force behind Pitstop since it first started in 1995, managed to locate alternative premises. After swift negotiations with the local education authority, a company was formed and the premises were rapidly fitted out as both a working garage and training centre. The now redundant ex-Pitstop staff were employed, City & Guilds centre and qualification approval was obtained and the new Pitstop was able to offer an uninterrupted service to students that were already halfway through their two year course in time for the start of the new academic year in September 2010 as well as for students from schools that had committed to a two year course at the old Pitstop prior to the unfortunate and sudden closure.
In May 2011, our 2009 student intake completed the course and 95% of those students obtained a City & Guilds motor vehicle qualification at diploma size with one student completing the course in record time - see our case history page.
In May 2012, 100% of the student intake completed the course and the same number is on target to complete the course in 2013 with the addition of a Level 2 qualification in Health & Safety at work.
Pitstop, through its City & Guilds approval, enables two further Newham based NAP training providers (in motorcycle and cycle maintenance) to offer accredited training courses by becoming satellites of Pitstop. We are able to offer this service to other organisations irrespective of their size.
Pitstop also runs "Summer Schools" in the term breaks where Newham students as young as 12 spend a week at Pitstop learning various motor trade skills and gaining a taste of what we are able to offer.
We currently have four enthusiastic members of staff, a Project Manager, Workshop Manager, an Internal Verifier and a dedicated student support officer that have the young peoples best interest at heart and with a view to them accessing full time employment or further education on completion of their training. The Project Manager, Workshop Manager and Internal Verifier are qualified motor mechanics and they are all experienced trainers and assessors.
Pitstop is specifically set up to work with young people between the ages of 14 and 19. The demand is being led by schools and PRU's and the need to provide work based learning over a two year period catering for students in years 10 and 11. The current courses meet these needs with the mainstream students attending one day per week for their final two years at school. The course requires commitment and enthusiasm if the students are to realise their potential.
Although students start at the beginning of the acedemic term in September and spend a full two years with us, we can offer a roll-on, roll-off start to cater for latecomers to the programme, infill students and individual PRU requirements. We are also able to offer unit accrediation for late starters or early leavers although a qualification at award level is possible for students attending on two days per week in just one 12-week school term.
In July/August 2012, 8 students aged 16+ attended Pitstop on the SkillsJam programme and all gained a City & Guilds entry level qualification in just 8 weeks!
Apart from the formal qualifactions, a great deal of time is spent on developing the students inter-personal skills, improving behaviour and attitudes and as they are working in a real garage, getting them ready for the real world of work.