We caught up with Leon Atkins, a self employed driving instructor in Norfolk. Leon kindly shared his experience as a driving instructor, his hopes for the future and an overview of what he does on an average day.
Why did you choose to pursue a career in the automotive industry as a driving instructor?
I got my first motorbike to ride around the field when I was about 14 and couldn’t wait to get on the road. Those two years felt like a lifetime! On my 16th birthday I took my 50cc moped out on the roads for the first time and it was such a buzz! That buzz got even greater on my 17th birthday when I took my first driving lesson and even though I’ve been driving for 31 years it’s still a passion, never a chore. The choice to become a driving instructor was an easy one, I could combine my love of driving with working with others to get that sense of achievement and the freedom that comes with passing the test, also having my own business which had been a goal for some time.
What courses/qualifications have you completed to be in your job role now?
When I started the training to be an ADI you needed to pass Part 1 (Theory test) Part 2 (Driving ability test) and Part 3 (Teaching ability test) once issued with your ADI badge, you need to undergo a Standards Check every 2 or 4 years depending on your grade. Although the Standards Check isn’t a qualification, you still need to score high enough to keep your badge to carry on working as an instructor. I regularly book myself onto Continuous Development Programs to improve my training, keep up with changing/developing methods and to help streamline my business.
What has been a highlight of your career so far?
I’ve just recently moved from Leicestershire to Norfolk. The week before finishing in Leicestershire, an autistic lady I had been working with for 3 years took her test and passed for the first time! She had learnt with a few instructors before me and things didn’t come easily for her, so to see her to the end of that particular journey and to get a first time pass was an epic leaving present.
Have you faced any challenges throughout your career?
Even after 6 years I’m still relatively new to the business but there have been a few things to get my teeth into along the way! I think one of my toughest challenges I can recall was trying to help a young lady that really wanted to drive but was advised by all of her friends and her carer’s not to due to her mental health and lack of memory retention. We got the all clear from her specialist and got her moving off and driving around. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to go to the test as she stopped before then, but the confidence she gained from driving the car made her a completely different person.
What do you do on an average day in your role?
8:00am Check over my diary and read the write up from the previous lesson.
9:00am First pick up from the pupils house.
9:05am: Finish the recap from last lesson and brief the pupil on what we might cover in this lesson.
10:50am: End the lesson with a debrief on what we had covered that lesson and complete a progress report.
11:00am: Do a write up of anything that might have happened in the lesson and what we want to work on for the next lesson.
11:30am: Between 11am and 11.30am try to fit in a toilet break then repeat the process for the first lesson.
1:30pm: Complete my write up and head home for lunch.
3:00pm: My last lesson of the day can be anywhere from 3pm-7pm after which I’ll fill up the tank on the way home if it’s getting low and once home I’ll sync my diary with my online diary and do any planning I need to prepare for the next day.
Any time I get spare I reply to lesson requests or missed phone calls.
What do you think the future looks like for driving instructors?
There’s going to be some big changes in the industry over the coming years and I think driving instructors are going to have to be very resilient. At some point I know I’m going to have to start teaching automatic to fit in with the electric movement. However, for the time being while people still want affordable manual transmission vehicles, I’m sticking with the gears.
What is one thing you would like to have known before starting your career?
The bane of any instructor’s working life is cancellations and no shows! We do what we can to avoid this, but it happens. It can have a huge negative effect on the business.
What kind of skills/characteristics do you feel you need to have in order to work as a driving instructor?
You need to be a people person and be able to read people fairly well and adapt to many different personalities. Good communication skills are important too.
Would you recommend this job to someone who was interested in pursuing a career as a Driving Instructor?
I love the job I do so of course I would recommend it. I’ve heard many instructors say ‘it’s a lonely job’ but I couldn’t disagree more. I see different people from all walks of life every day, I talk to other driving instructors all the time, at the test centre, WhatsApp or on the forums and the satisfaction you get when someone has worked so hard and gets their licence is the best feeling ever!