News: Interview - "Laugh ’n’ Pass"

 

To find out why there is such a huge demand for female driving instructors, we spoke to Joanne at Laugh ‘n’ Pass, the largest all-female driving school in West Yorkshire.

 


 

“WHY DO YOU THINK FEMALE DRIVING INSTRUCTORS ARE SO POPULAR?”

“Basically I think pupils believe that a female driving instructor will be more patient and understanding towards their needs. Some pupils we’ve found have had bad experiences with male instructors i.e. they’ve touched their leg or they’ve shouted at them, things like that, so they just literally feel more safe with a female instructor”.

“Do you think that a lot of that is perception…?”

“I think a lot of it… the way that the industry is going at the moment, I think it is losing some of its professionalism. It doesn’t really matter whether the instructor is male or female so long as that instructor is professional at all times. There are bad instructors out there whether they’re male or female”.

“Have you noticed the demand for females has increased in recent years?”

“Definitely… when I first started out, we’re going back 8 or 9 years, there was only a handful of us actually around, so that’s how my business grew so rapidly, because we were in demand constantly. We’re still in great demand today. The number of female instructors that are actually coming through the training academies is growing, but the pass rates for actually qualifying to be a driving instructor is actually only 25%. There are a lot of instructors out there that have not reached the qualified stages yet”.

“As there is an increasing demand for female driving instructors, hopefully more and more females will be qualifying so that the demand can be met because I don’t think that female driving instructors are very easy to find at the moment.”

“They’re not. One of the other things is that there are ADI instructors, which are your Approved Driving Instructors and PDIs, which are Potential Driving Instructors. Now, Potential Driving Instructors are allowed to work on a trainee licence for a period of time… and what’s happening is that there are more and more of these trainee instructors coming around and ADIs, who are qualified instructors that have been on the road for many years are losing business because of this.”

“Well on the FDI site, you have to be a registered ADI to be listed in our directory. We’ve done everything we can to ensure the quality of the instructors.”

 


“WHY DO YOU THINK THAT FEMALE DRIVING INSTRUCTORS ARE STILL QUITE RARE?”

“I think the whole driving industry is very male-orientated. All the trainers… because obviously male driving instructors have been around a lot longer, they dominate the training of the instructors as there aren’t a lot of females that have reached that level as yet. I think as well that females feel uncomfortable because they don’t know where to turn. At the moment the only place that people seem to turn is to the larger establishments i.e. BSM or the Instructor College. They believe that they are the only 2 places out there to offer the training. However, if they shop around there are a lot of driving schools out there now that will actually opt for the training. To be perfectly honest, going with the smaller establishments will actually give you more of a personal touch.”

“How would people go about finding those smaller driver training establishments?”

“Basically I would say pick up the Yellow Pages and just go through the driving instructors within their area and ring them up…a driving instructor will know of somebody that will be able to help them out rather than just going to the larger ones that are advertising.”

“Recommendation is usually the best way to go, isn’t it?”

“Exactly. A lot of the girls that have come through me for training have all said that they wish they would have come to me initially because they did feel intimidated being in the male environment.”

“So, do you think that the reason that female driving instructors are quite rare has to do with actually getting started in the first place?”

“Definitely. I don’t think enough information is out there on the requirements and who is actually going to be able to help them out.”

 


“SO, WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO BECOME A DRIVING INSTRUCTOR?”

“Basically, I think it’s the love of communicating. I love talking to people. I can talk for England! I wanted to pass over all my knowledge to somebody else…. I also wanted to be flexible in the sense that I am not a 9 to 5 person in an office and I wanted a variety of work style.”

“Do you enjoy what you do?”

“I absolutely love it!”

 


“WHAT KIND OF PEOPLE DO YOU TEACH AT YOUR DRIVING SCHOOL?”

“We teach everybody. We teach young guys whose Mums ring up and want to put them in with a female instructor. We’ve even had middle-aged guys that prefer to go with a female. We have pupils from all walks of life.”

 


“CAN YOU TELL US WHAT’S UNIQUE ABOUT LAUGH ‘N’ PASS?”

“Laugh ‘n’ Pass is a group of bubbly female instructors. We have nights out with our pupils and go into town and go for meals, bowling, and things like that.

We do ‘pupil of the month’ certificates so when someone has really excelled within the month, they get a certificate. We also do a little scheme whereby 10 stars equals a free driving lesson, so if they do exceptionally well, like for example, not going a penny over when they put some fuel in the car, they could possibly get a star. So we’ve got lots of little incentives for the pupils but I think that at the end of the day the thing that stands out the most is that the instructors all care about getting our pupils on the road and teaching them how to drive safely for life and not just to pass a driving test. We do really care.

We’ve got some pupils that come to us because they have failed their test about 10 times…My motto is that you can teach absolutely anybody to drive, but what you do find is that people do come with a package. A lot of people have personal problems at home and they do tend to bring it to the driving lessons. And a lot of them do lack confidence within themselves. 85% of driving is about teaching somebody how to gather information about what’s happening on the road… and those who cannot make decisions for themselves and are very withdrawn will find it difficult, and may not get to the point of actually taking their test. You know, we can sit next to somebody and as long as we’re talking they can drive absolutely fantastic, but the moment we go quiet they can’t make a decision for themselves. They’re just too afraid.”

“I suppose it’s about building that confidence…”

“Exactly. So we’re not just teaching them to drive a car, we’re teaching them to be confident people as well, in their home life as well as on the road. Because it’s so dangerous out there, they need to have a bit of an attitude whilst they’re driving.”

“How do you promote your driving school?”

“The only place I advertise is the Yellow Pages and the internet, with our website. Other than that it’s word of mouth and I believe for us that the name of the driving school did it. Laugh ‘n’ Pass literally makes people laugh! We’ve seen people, as you drive past the bus stop, literally mimicking the name and laughing at us and I think they just go to the Yellow Pages, find us and give us a ring.”

“How many instructors do you have out of interest?”

“10, covering all West Yorkshire. And also 5 in training.”

 


“WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO ANY FEMALES OUT THERE WHO ARE THINKING OF BECOMING A DRIVING INSTRUCTOR?”

“I would say, don’t enter into it lightly. It’s not an easy option. It’s costly… there are a lot of courses out there and the price range does vary from say £1,500 up to £3,500 to train to be a driving instructor. Those are the bare bones of the course but there are additional costs that will be incurred that you’re not always necessarily told about.

Basically I would say that you have got to be a very good communicator. You’ve got to have the ability to use question and answering techniques… and a bubbly personality! People say that you need patience but I disagree with that. I don’t think this job is about having patience. It’s about being able to communicate. I would say if somebody is interested, for them to go and be with a driving instructor, ask if they could sit in the back and observe what actually goes on out there before they make any final decisions… and get somebody to actually do an assessment of them to make sure that they are capable of doing the job, because with a pass rate of 25% you don’t want to be throwing your money away. Some of the establishments will actually take you on regardless of whether you are suited to the job or not.

Although it’s a flexible job, you have to maintain the same hours every single week. Something you’ve also got to think about is that the people that can afford driving lessons are those that work, so your main hours of working are going to be evenings and weekends.

If anybody wants to have an informal chat, I’d be happy to give free advice. If anybody is considering it and they want to have a chat, I can help them out over the phone.”

“That’s great! I hope that there will also be some interesting discussions about becoming a driving instructor on our chat forums… Are you looking to expand at the moment?”

“I’m always looking to expand, yes. With training, I’ve got an excellent pass rate training people to be driving instructors and it is a hand holding experience with us. I don’t hide anything from them and I will explain all of the hidden costs etc.”

 


 

Joanne’s website is www.laughnpass.co.uk and she can be contacted on 0845 466 7214.

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