With the spotlight on apprentices during February thanks to the annual National Apprenticeship Week, a number of operators have pledged their commitment to apprenticeship programmes as part of their business strategies, which has been welcomed by Imperial Engineering.
Stagecoach, for example, now employs 1,000 apprentices, its highest ever number and is currently training its latest cohort of apprentices in roles ranging from driving and engineering to HR and learning and development, having recruited 200 more positions than last year.
Martin Griffiths, Stagecoach Chief Executive said: “Apprenticeships are critical to our future workforce and an area that Stagecoach has invested in for many years. As the UK’s biggest bus, coach and tram operator, apprenticeships bring huge value to our business in terms of talent and diversity.
“We have been at the forefront of championing apprentices in our workforce for many years and it is great that we now have over 1,000 apprentices across our companies in England, Scotland and Wales.”
Similarly, the Go-Ahead Group, which is the largest employer of apprentices in the UK transport industry, has hired 1,030 apprentices across its bus and rail operations during 2021.
These encouraging numbers have bucked the overall trend, which shows that apprenticeship starts have fallen across the UK since the start of the pandemic. A government report published earlier this year indicates a near 20% drop in apprenticeship starts from August 2020-January 2021 but this is across all sectors of industry. This statistic is perhaps unsurprising given the economic impact of the pandemic on businesses, many of which have had to make redundancies in order to survive.
Susanna Dillon, Head of Apprenticeships at Go-Ahead said: “I’m incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved this year at Go-Ahead. We’ve adapted to the pandemic and are stronger than ever. We’re committed to recruiting apprentices and bringing in people with fresh ideas and viewpoints to shake up the transport sector.”
At Go-Ahead London, which is the largest operator of red buses on behalf of Transport for London, its apprenticeship programme has cut the number of trainees who leave within two years from 40% to 13% and 18% of new apprentices are female.
First Bus, Scotland’s largest bus operator, partnered with Reaseheath College in Nantwich to establish the UK’s first bus and coach engineering academy, delivering tailored training to First Bus apprentice engineering technicians in the maintenance of next generation, zero-emission transport vehicles.
First Bus head of learning and development Hansi Jackson, said: “Apprentices are the future of our business, as they enable us to bring in a wealth of talent and skills and help us to shape the future of the business alongside skilled colleagues. They work together to learn from one another, to share ideas and innovate. Without them we wouldn’t be able to support our bigger, better strategy of attracting and retaining talent and growing future skills we know the industry will need.”
John Dwight, Imperial Engineering’s Technical Sales Director, comments:
“The news that some of the biggest players in our industry are seeing increased apprentice numbers is very positive indeed. It’s crucial to the succession of our industry that we’re seen as an attractive career opportunity for the engineers and technicians of tomorrow. With technology advancing rapidly into the electromobility era, the demand for multi-skilled engineers with diagnostic and electrical skills will increase. It’s also great to see a gradual uplift in the number of female apprentices joining the sector. Imperial Engineering plans to continue its close association with the IRTE Skills Challenge, which is an excellent shop window for highlighting the sector as a skilled profession.”