Senior directors of First Bus celebrated National Apprenticeship Week by visiting the UK’s first Bus and Coach engineering academy for training apprentices on the next generation of zero-emission vehicles.
The operator has partnered with Reaseheath College in Nantwich, Cheshire to open the purpose-built national centre, which has just completed its first term with an intake of 22 apprentices aged 16-30 including three female trainees.
Most are studying the Level 3 bus and coach engineering programme with two on the Level 3 Trade Supplier apprenticeship.
A tour of the facility saw a group of apprentices demonstrating their skills and technical development in workshops housing vehicles donated by First Bus including a hybrid electric bus and a specially-converted engineering training bus with its interior boasting in the latest electronic and diagnostic testing equipment.
First Bus directors were also shown around the classrooms and spoke with course leaders and tutors. Pictured are Ian Warr and Kevin Green (second and third from left) with apprentices Liam Blyth and Maddison Simmons and Simon Bishop from Reaseheath College.
Ian Warr, Engineering Director of First Bus, said: “Seeing the academy in live operation has been fantastic after the collective effort by our team and the college to get this set up.
“We’ve been determined to make sure access to vehicles and equipment for technical skills development matches the superb study environment to give our apprentices the best start to their training and careers.”
He was accompanied on the visit by Kevin Green, Chief People Officer at First Bus, who added: “The theme of National Apprenticeship Week ‘build the future’ is perfectly demonstrated at this academy. Zero-emission engine technologies are evolving rapidly as First Bus invests in greener fleets to reduce carbon and improve air quality. It’s vitally important that we upskill our apprentices to build a pipeline of highly talented bus engineers with the right knowledge to maintain the next generation of buses.”
Reaseheath College has invested some £50,000 in new equipment. The facility adopts a work experience-style environment to help instil a workplace mindset among apprentices and maintain a seamless switch from depot to learning.
The new engineering academy has broken the mould of traditional apprenticeships with the introduction of a 12-week block release, twice that of other courses, with trainees attending for a series of four 3-week classroom and practical residential visits over a year.
Engineering directors and managers from First Bus have had direct input into the course content and delivery, a contribution not previously possible with other programmes.
Programme Leader at the academy, Simon Bishop said: “We have been delighted to welcome directors from First Bus to see first-hand the practical and theoretical training which their apprentices are receiving.
“This visit during National Apprenticeship Week has given us a real opportunity to turn the spotlight on training advancements for apprentices within the transport sector. We are very proud of the positive way our two-way alliance is developing, as it gives the apprentices the best possible start to their careers and is also helping the government’s drive towards a carbon neutral future.”
Kevin Green and Ian Warr also met with Reaseheath College’s Executive team including Principal, Marcus Clinton, Senior Assistant Principal, Paul Spearritt and Assistant Principal of Apprenticeships & Business Hub, Sharon Yates to discuss progress and potential for continued enhancement to the facilities and course content.