Stewart Lochrie Managing director of Caledonian Learner Driver Training.
To kick us off, how long have you been an ADI and why did you become a driving instructor?
I was made redundant. I was actually made redundant twice in 1 year. I worked in hotels - hospitality management. After the second time, I thought it was time to try something else.
I saw the adverts on the television that promised me £30,000 a year - did some more research and I spoke to several companies. Then I jumped in.
What were the first few years like as a driving instructor?
10 years ago was the recession. It was quite tough. A lot of people became driving instructors - they were at an all-time high. In a recession - parents don’t have spare cash to pay for driving lessons. It was definitely a tough time to start.
“ To me, the theory of driving is about taking responsibility for your own learning
You're the owner of Caledonian Learner Driver Training - how did you get involved?
I was really impressed after meeting the owner. So, I joined them after meeting the owner for coffee. I liked the idea of being with a local company.
A few years later and the opportunity to buy the driving school came up. After speaking to my wife about it, we borrowed some money and bought them out.
What was it about Caledonian that attracted you to them initially?
The decision was based on the brand, the owner, and the people. The brand was clean and professional, the owner had the right values in place, and the people were and still are my friends. I couldn't have done any of this without the support of that original core group of ADIs.
What makes Caledonian stand out?
We embrace technology, we have VR headsets for the students where they can have VR sessions. We have 3 or 4 of them going across the country.
We've produced Caledonian Classroom Sessions, based on the HERMES Report and the coaching scenarios of Ian Edwards, for the benefit of our clients. These are half-day group coaching sessions, delivered by our Training Managers, that focus on concepts around driving for work, peer pressure, responsibilities to society, etc. Things that are often a bit too complicated or time-consuming for in-car sessions.
How do Caledonian tackle isolation in the industry?
We have quarterly business reviews. This is an opportunity for everyone to get together. I do a presentation about the changes in the industry. I explain how Caledonian is doing in terms of learner requests and the business, we talk about reviews, lesson prices, students. This is a key opportunity for everyone to see how Caledonian is performing, and they can see what their money is being spent on.
We also have quarterly social gatherings and a big Christmas night out every year. At our last one, we had a 20-25 people out for a dinner dance.
What's your plans for Caledonian - where is it going?
There is scope for the brand to be bigger than it is right now. We have plans to expand and grow outside our main area, Southside of Glasgow. We have several instructors in Milton Keynes now - it's a good base to build on.
I’m working with some brilliant trainers and coaches across the country who are helping us grow, and, hopefully, they are benefiting from the affiliation with Caledonian.
What do you see the main benefits of being in a franchise like Caledonian?
What’s unique to Caledonian is the investment in time we make for instructors in terms of CPD. We offer free training for Standards Checks and regular Quality Assessments to ensure everyone's businesses are running as well as they can be.
We give instructors a chance to progress their career - we prepare instructors for Fleet Training,to be instructor trainers (our two Training Managers have both been developed in-house") and for ORDIT.
We open doors for instructors and show them its not just about learner drivers.
For learners, before they get in a car for their first lesson, what 3 things would you like them to know?
- It’s okay to get things wrong
- There is no set number of driving lessons to pass, it takes as long as it takes
- Driving is not about skills, it's about how to think properly.
“ For PDIs, we offer unlimited training hours to get our instructors through their course.
In the last 5 years, what do you think is the biggest change in the industry?
The introduction of client-centred learning techniques. Teaching instructors how to think properly, critically, and non-judgmentally is the first step in getting learners to think the same way.
What do you think will be the biggest change to the industry in the next 5 years?
I hope we will continue with client centred learning. I would like to see the Goals for Driver Education (GDE) matrix being brought in, to see pupils take more responsibility.
I would like to see these topics brought into the theory test. To me, the theory of driving is about taking responsibility for your own learning, taking responsibility for your own performance.
In your experience, what are the top 5 traits of an ADI?
The best ADIs, in my opinion, are the best coaches. I have to take this from coaching skills.
- Create a safe environment for learning
- Build a rapport with your learner
- Use Active listening and know when not to talk
- Have Patience - let students develop their own ideas and thoughts
- Being Business savvy. Having a customer service background would help, turning up on time and creating a good impression
What’s your advice for new PDIs?
Join a brilliant franchise or an association like the ADINJC.
Being a member of ADINJC means you have access to some of the most highly trained and instructor trainers in the country.
The Governing Committee is made up of various professionals. We all have different areas of expertise - some are ex-police officers and ex-solicitors.
They are able to help with disciplinary issues with the Driving Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), Appeals over standards checks that could have been carried out incorrectly. And unfortunately, something that is coming more common is members of the public making complaints regarding a driving instructor and this can be very stressful.
These national organisations have access to training courses too. ADINJC offer courses up and down the country.
And - it’s really cheap - £5 per month!
Stewart Lochrie's is looking for new instructors to join Caledonian Learner Driver Training across the UK. Find out more about becoming an ADI here.