Liva Baltvilka has just passed her Motor Vehicle level 1 qualification at Leeds City College, and will be doing levels 2 & 3 as part of a new apprenticeship. In 2017, WEST awarded Liva a £100 bursary to put towards tools, equipment and safety clothing.
Why motor vehicle? What inspired you?
My dad inspired me. He was originally a marine engineer, and used to be off sailing all the time. Then when I came along he started doing car mechanics because he didn’t want to leave me while he went to sea. So he used to take me to the garage with him from about the age of three. I always tried copying him, which got me into trouble when I was little and didn’t know what I was doing! One of my earliest memories was when I wrote my name with an acorn on a freshly painted car bonnet. I got into so much trouble; and you’ve never seen so many people all polishing one car at once!
Now he is a mobile mechanic. He will go to your home and rebuild an engine on your doorstep.
What is your course like?
Level 1 was very basic stuff, like brake systems, cooling systems, some electronics. I’ve already done more advanced stuff with my dad, so I was a bit bored to be honest. So the tutor gave me harder work, like taking the starter motor out of a Ford Mondeo that was near the back and under loads of stuff.
There are about 14 people in my class, and two of us are girls. I know next year there will be four girls on the whole level 2 course. I didn’t have any worries about going on the course, but at first some of them said, “but you are a girl, what do you know?” So I left them to it in a group, and then if they screwed up, I would correct them! It was a weird situation, they tried to ignore it and pretend it didn’t happen!
The teachers are sometimes protective, but they don’t treat us differently – maybe they cherish girls and stick up for us because there are not so many on the course.
What is your apprenticeship like?
It’s amazing! I am painting vehicles at a high-end local garage. The first car I worked on was a Ferrari, so I was very careful. I’ll be working four days a week, and then at college one day a week. I have changed now to concentrating on paint, because I can learn mechanics from my dad at any time.
When you were younger, what did you want to do when you grew up?
When I was really little I wanted to be a police officer, that was always my dream. Then went I moved to England and found out about the army, and how wide the opportunities are, I changed my path to being a mechanic in the army.
What are your plans and ambitions?
Well my apprenticeship is for two years, which will take me up to being 19. Then I would like to joining the army as a vehicle retrieval mechanic. This includes going to the front line, retrieving a vehicle and fixing it before sending it back.
After that, I want to get a garage of my own. I’d like to concentrate on all three spectrums of the vehicle trade: body repair, paint and mechanics. I would like to work with my dad, maybe in a partnership for my first business, as he knows so much about it. Sometimes he says to me I have to work things out myself, and that can get on my nerves. But I know that he is saying: be independent, I’m not always going to be there.
Any advice to other girls and women?
Don’t listen to the guys! You probably know more than them. Do what you want to do – try it and see what happens. If it doesn’t work out, then you can move onto the next thing you want to do.