Banbury mechanic goes full circle with his own apprentices

John looks on as apprentice Joe Barcock learns the ropesJohn looks on as apprentice Joe Barcock learns the ropes
John looks on as apprentice Joe Barcock learns the ropes
A Banbury mechanic who started his career as an apprentice 50 years ago is passing on his knowledge to his own apprentices.

February 3 to 9 is National Apprenticeship Week, an annual celebration of apprenticeships in England which recognises the impact of that form of training on individuals, employers and the economy. The experiences of John Darby and Joe Barcock is one example of a success story.

Mechanic John decided to open his own business, John Darby Auto Repairs, in 1998 after a lifetime in the motor trade which began as an apprentice in the late 1960s.

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John said: “Back in 2008, I decided to go on my own and open my business, after working in the garage trade and up to service manager. I’m 66 now and I still enjoy coming to work each day, what more could you want?

“I had good training as an apprentice and I’m still in the motor trade and I am still enjoying it. Here I am at 66 and I started at 15.”

It is this dedication to industry and John’s own apprenticeship journey that has inspired him to work with Activate Learning’s Banbury and Bicester College and take on apprentices.

John has employed apprentices for several years now, providing the skills and knowledge young people need in order thrive in their own motor industry careers.

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“What attracted me to taking on an apprentice is that I enjoy working with young people, we learn from them and they learn from us.

“Having an apprentice in the team boosts productivity, there’s no doubt about it. We train them here for a year or so and we quickly see improvement from them,” said John.

One of those apprentices was Banbury and Bicester College student Joe Barcock.

Joe’s interest in the motor industry stemmed from working alongside his father on cars growing up.

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With a preference for work-based learning, as opposed to attending college on a full-time basis, Joe’s step into an apprenticeship was a natural process.

Joe said: “I think having my dad in the trade sort of pulled me in, he helped me out when I was younger and kind of got me into it. He also helped me secure this apprenticeship, so I had that support there.

“I wanted to learn in the workplace in a garage and not a classroom. At the moment, I’m learning about how everything works and how to do different things on the car.”

Joe still attends college as part of his apprenticeship, where he focuses on theory work and puts into practice in the college workshop.

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Joe is making great progress, having been mentored by John for the past few months.

John said: “Joe is willing to learn. He came with a bit of a knowledge in the motor trade anyway as his father is in the trade. That’s what swung me towards him because he had an inkling before he got here.”

Although demanding, John says apprenticeships prove very rewarding for young people who give it their all.

John said: “We train them throughout the whole process, they can greet customers, take money from customers, they can do the whole job, that’s what we want to see.

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“The qualities we look for in apprentices is honesty, good timekeeping and well-mannered individuals.”

He added: “We like to train apprentices in the way we work. Joe had this good inkling and he was obviously trained the same way I was in my day. They start from the basics and we teach them everything. Joe already knew quite a bit and he’s been exceptional.

“I have realised people adapt quickly and get on with it, the apprentices we’ve had here have all been great.”

John believes apprentices are great for businesses in Banbury, supporting the economy and developing young people in the area.

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“Apprentices are very good for local business and I enjoy training them. We teach them a lot and it gives them a really good standing going forward.

“Local employers should give it a try. We’ve done it now for quite a few years and it’s been very successful.

“We all have to learn. I was an apprentice when I started in my working life back in 1968. I’ve gone full circle and have seen it from the bottom up and that’s exactly the way we like to teach them.”

Joe also sees the advantages of apprenticeships. He said: “I’d definitely recommend considering an apprenticeship, especially if you are worried about sitting in a class all day being bored.

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“It didn’t take me long to settle in, everyone was quite welcoming. All the people are nice and supportive if I need any help, I can just ask them.

“On an apprenticeship, you’ll actually learn from day one what work is like and you’ll be learning while doing something.

“I plan to stay working at John Darby Auto Repairs once I’ve finished and I am really grateful for all I’ve learned while being here.”

To find out more about Banbury and Bicester College apprenticeships visit

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