Deputy Prime Minister announces doubling of apprentices at National Express West Midlands

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg visited National Express West Midlands in Birmingham today to announce that the company is doubling its apprentices.

The bus operator, Birmingham’s biggest private sector employer, is doubling the number of apprentices entering its engineering department across the West Midlands, taking the total to 50, as well as increasing its business administration and customer service apprentices.

National Express West Midlands apprentices go through a four year programme that provides skills in a full range of engineering disciplines including bodywork, electrical, maintenance and refurbishment.  In the final two years apprentices will pick a specialty and hone their skills to become experts in their fields.

The apprenticeships, which are being created by National Express West Midlands, will form part of the Government’s Greater Birmingham City Deal, signed earlier in the year by the Deputy Prime Minister and the Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP.

The Greater Birmingham City Deal pledged to create 3,560 apprenticeships and develop the city as a hub for world-class real-world skills.

During today’s visit the Deputy Prime Minister was shown the skills being developed by the company’s existing 25 apprentices, including how to change a 48-inch bus tyre, how to install new HD CCTV and how to fit the body panels to the front of a bus.

The Deputy Prime Minister also heard from Peter Coates, Managing Director of National Express West Midlands, about the company’s ground-breaking Routes to Work partnership with JobCentre Plus.  Routes to Work has already delivered 1,000 new job opportunities in the West Midlands and helps get more young people and women into the transport industry.  The partnership, which links to the government’s Youth Contract, has led to a four year reduction in the average age of the bus company’s 5,500 staff.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said: “It is great to see Birmingham’s biggest private sector employer leading by example, doubling the number of apprentices on its books and ensuring they gain the skills they need for a successful career.

“The regional economy needs companies like National Express West Midlands to step up and play their part, which is why I am here today to welcome their apprenticeship plans.

“Helping young people succeed is crucial to our economic recovery. As a Government we are trying to move away from the thinly disguised snobbery we unfortunately see, that implies the best route in life is always academic, and always University.  It’s simply not the case.  Vocational courses and hands-on experience are extremely valuable and give youngsters the support, drive and ambition they need to get on in life – the young talented people I’ve met here today are living proof of that.”

Peter Coates, Managing Director of National Express West Midlands said: “I want to thank the Deputy Prime Minister for coming to our garage today and seeing firsthand the skills our guys are learning and the real impact they have on our business.  Our apprentices are the next generation of our business and I am proud to see how promising the future looks.  The dedication and enthusiasm our apprentices show on a daily basis is second to none.”

Published 15th November 2013