Over a decade ago, Suzuki GB Plc recognised the need to raise and maintain a high standard of workshop expertise at dealership level in the ever-changing world of motorcycle technology. The Sussex-based importer decided that the best way forward was to encourage its motorcycle outlets to actively participate in a staff training scheme and in 1989 introduced The Technician of the Year Competition, followed by The Suzuki Guild of Technicians in 1998.

Now in its 5th year, The Guild of Technicians scheme alternates between Suzuki's motorcycle and automotive divisions and was expanded last year to incorporate a new award for Aftersales Advisor. Aftersales plays an increasingly important role within a franchised network and many Suzuki dealers have set up departments dedicated to this key area.

Suzuki received over 150 applications for entry into the award scheme at the beginning of 2003, from technicians and aftersales advisors already employed within its nationwide network of motorcycle dealers.

In the following months each applicant tackled a set of four written papers. The test papers consisted of 20 unique questions and could only be accessed via Suzuki GB's password-protected training website. The questions and answers were randomly selected on a continuous basis with no two papers the same.

The highest scoring five technicians and advisors were put forward for a gruelling day-long series of five practical and role-play tests at Suzuki GB PLC's headquarters in Crawley in November.

On the day, the winners, 31-year-old Wayne Diprose and 39-year-old John Plummer proved to be the most competent in their respective areas of expertise. They both outperformed their rivals in a set of practical and diagnostic assignments that the panel of five Suzuki judges claimed to be the most difficult to date.

Suzuki GB's Technical Services Director, Barry Everett, said, "When a retail outlet is representing Suzuki it is vitally important to customers that a high level of both pre and post-sales service is maintained. We operate a number of training schemes that cater for the novice technician at apprenticeship level as well as those already fully trained. The support of our dealer network for such programmes is phenomenal and it is an area which we are continually developing."

All finalists received award plaques from Suzuki GB's Managing Director Mr Hideki Awano and will all enjoy a trip to Suzuki's production plant in Gijon, Spain next year.