In 2014, David Brazer established Ignition Automotive Training; an innovative training centre fused with a real working garage, where unemployed or marginalised people could gain hands-on experience of a real work environment alongside qualifications to help them back into employment. In 2016, the IOEE named Ignition the Enterprising Learning Provider of the Year at its annual awards ceremony in the House of Lords, and Ignition’s umbrella company, Citadel Associates Ltd, has just been awarded its IOEE Academy status. This month we chatted to David about his new book release, having an entrepreneurial mindset, and why mentoring really matters.
Ignition originally started off as a personal project for David. He saw that people seeking employment were being put onto certificates such as Health & Safety, which offered no marketable skills to go alongside them, meaning these new qualifications didn’t actually help them to achieve their ultimate employment goals. David says:
“I saw that people needed skills, accredited qualifications, something on their CV, real work experience and a strong reference. It motivated me to create something that could make a real difference. Ignition was the only way that I could think to give people everything and more and, what began as a personal mission, has grown into the company it is today.”
Ignition and Citadel have now supported over 1000 people through their innovative projects, giving marginalised people the opportunity to develop skills and work experience to help them get jobs; people with physical disabilities or mental health issues, people who’ve struggled with addiction, ex-offenders, or young people from disadvantaged backgrounds who struggled to get qualifications in the traditional school system. David says:
“Our learners benefit from being in a practical environment, where it’s about gaining much more than knowledge - things such as teamwork and confidence. It’s not been an easy journey getting here, but it’s been worth it - when I first told people I was going to open a garage, everyone said I was an idiot! But I told them it wasn’t about me being a mechanic; this was about supporting people, and that was something I was passionate about doing.”
This passion fills the pages of David’s new book, Anyone Can Do Easy, where he focuses on the importance of believing in what you do, and David tells us about the outstanding achievement of becoming an author:
“Anyone Can Do Easy is about my entrepreneurial journey, but I wanted to stay away from it being a ‘how to’ guide. The book is about mindset and motivation, rather than the nuts and bolts of starting up or running a business, because the right mindset is key to success. Even writing the book itself reminded me of that lesson - it took about six months to write and I really had to get myself in the right headspace every time I sat down to write it.
“One of the messages in the book is, ‘it’s never about can or can’t - it’s always about will or won’t’, because you have to have that ‘can do’ attitude. You can acquire practical skills as you go, but you’ll not get anywhere without the passion or belief to succeed. I’ve fallen down all the pitfalls there are to fall down, and I wanted to help people to know about these beforehand, so they didn’t fall down the same ones too. You can always get people in business to do the mechanics, but you can’t always get people in there who have that passion to keep getting knocked down and getting up again, time after time. You can give someone a blueprint of exactly how to open a business, but passion is the thing that makes it take off and succeed - I really believe in that.”
Citadel and Ignition have many prestigious awards under their belts, but 2018 certainly won’t be the year that they’re putting on the breaks, with a number of exciting projects in the pipeline. David says:
“One of our biggest plans is to open a Skills Centre with other social enterprises, offering a range of skills development opportunities. We’re also going to introduce an MOT qualification this year. I’ve recently done a Manager course and my colleague’s done a Tester course for this, so we’ll be able to roll out teaching MOT qualifications to our learners soon. We’re also finalising some arrangements with the Council - fingers crossed we’ll be in our new premises next month too.”
Despite his success and the prospects for the year ahead, David says that it can still be very challenging work, and he employs his own positive mindset techniques, such as visualising the future and thinking of the bigger picture, on the days when he asks himself, ‘should I have opened a burger van instead? It’s got to be easier than this!’. However, seeing how much difference his work makes to people is what makes it all worthwhile for him. David says:
“One young lad came to us at Ignition after he’d been at college for two years - he didn’t have any work-related skills or qualifications, and I didn’t understand why after he’d been in education, but some people just need to learn in that hands-on environment. After a while, his uncle came down to see us and said, ‘what have you done with him?!’, as he was thriving for the first time. The lad also came to see me a couple of weeks ago, telling me he was working
full-time and had bought car and got a girlfriend - and he was so excited! But I told him, ‘if you lost your job now, you wouldn’t need to come back here, would you?’, and he said, ‘nah, I can do it myself now’ - as he’s gained all the skills to support himself and stand on his own two feet. This is exactly the sort of thing that makes it worth it for me.
“However, I couldn’t do this alone. It’s a team effort and I want to thank my incredible team for their hard work. I may have been the one to start this, but you need good people around you in business if you’re going to keep it going and build it and grow it. You can’t do it alone, whatever your business venture might be, it’s down to getting the right support.”
At the end of last year, Citadel was accredited as an IOEE Academy, and David tells us what this means to him, both personally and for the company going forward:
“It’s fantastic to be accredited as an Academy, it’s definitely kudos for the company to have that stamp of approval and I’m really looking forward to working with the IOEE. On a personal level, it’s also quite nice timing for me too - I started Citadel in 2008, so 2018 marks my tenth anniversary in business, and I feel like I’ve now officially ‘graduated’ to the point where I can take what I’ve learnt over the last decade and pass it on. It’s my time to support the next generation of entrepreneurs, and working with the IOEE will help me to do this.
“I’m incredibly passionate about supporting people, especially young aspiring entrepreneurs who want to get into work or set up on their own. I’d had a couple of mentoring experiences where it had felt like they were only ticking a box by doing it – and people deserve so much better than that.”
More information on IOEE’s new Academy, Citadel Associates Ltd,is available at http://www.casyltd.co.uk/