Tuesday 8 March 2022
On International Women’s Day 2022, the AA is celebrating the women behind the yellow patrol vans and tuition cars who are helping to shape the company each day.
In January this year, the AA opened a Driver Academy to help train apprentices to become recovery patrols during the HGV driver shortage.
Megan Tench, recovery patrol apprentice is among the first cohort of the Driver Academy and joined the AA after a decade working for a medical light manufacturer in various roles. Megan, who is training at the AA centre in Oldbury, West Midlands, has two children and describes herself as a petrol head and football fan.
When asked if broken-down drivers have treated her differently because of her gender, Megan dismissed the suggestion, saying: “I certainly haven’t encountered anyone behaving any differently towards me because I’m a woman.
“To anyone looking to join the industry I would say: go for it. There’s no right or wrong job for anyone, just do what makes you happy.
“I can honestly say since joining the business that I would not change a thing - apart from maybe a heated steering wheel in the winter.”
Currently men make up a majority of the AA’s patrol roles, but the motoring organisation hopes its new Driver Academy will encourage more women to start careers in technical areas.
Megan added: “The highlight so far has been you’re always learning - no two jobs have been the same and every day on the road is a school day.
“Being able to help people when they are in a stressful situation is very rewarding.
“Having been stuck at the side of the road myself in the past it is a relief when you see that big yellow truck drive round the corner.”
The AA supports drivers at all stages of their driving life and there’s still high demand for driving lessons following the lockdowns and restrictions in the pandemic. AA Driving School instructor Jenna Williams, from Cardiff, has been teaching pupils for more than four years.
She said: “I really appreciate the flexibility my role as a driving instructor offers me. I have a young family and can juggle my childcare and nursery needs with having a rewarding job. Having control over the hours I work is key and being able to dial up or down the hours I work, provides the perfect balance.”
Driving instructors at the AA Driving School are franchised which means they work for themselves, choose their hours to fit around their personal lives and decide how much to charge per lesson.
Jenna added that women who are considering becoming a driving instructor should “go for it”, saying: “There are lots of female learners who specifically want to be taught by a female instructor and there aren’t too many of us around.
“You have to have confidence in yourself. Sometimes you can question whether you’re teaching people in the right way, but seeing the excitement and joy when people succeed is amazing.
“Being self-employed can be daunting at first, but you just need to believe in yourself.”
AA patrol Emma Willis joined the business in 2016 and earned a patrol leadership role just two years later and she now manages a team of up to 25 patrols. Before joining the AA she worked as a chef for nine years.
Emma said: “The best thing about my job is I don’t have the opportunity to get bored - it’s not repetitive and there’s always a new challenge.
When asked if AA members are ever surprised to see her arrive in her van, she said: “Reactions are pretty much always positive.”
“I would say any women looking to join they should try be an aggressive learner.
“Even if I am confident in a task, if a colleague offers to assist, I will accept as it’s good to learn a different way of doing things.
“Everyone has different agendas in what they want from a workplace, but I would say don't get caught up in wanting to be liked, always aim for respect.
“If I could change one thing about the industry it would be seeing more women in the trade, and more people seeing it as an option for them.”
Once fully trained, the Driver Academy apprentices will join over 2,500 roadside colleagues by becoming AA recovery patrols, giving them the opportunity to enjoy a job where every day brings exciting challenges and opportunities, as well as OTE circa £32,000*.
Learn more about becoming a driving instructor with the AA Driving School.
Learn more about becoming an AA patrol.
*Salary: £32,000 OTE (guaranteed minimum c. £28,368.96). London £35,000 Average earnings (guaranteed minimum c. £32,045.88)