National Express - driving up employment

National Express West Midlands launched phase two of their hugely successful Routes to Work programme on Thursday 19 May in Acocks Green in south Birmingham. Over a hundred local jobseekers were bussed in from JobCentres to learn about attractive careers with the bus operator - one of the largest private companies in the West Midlands.

National Express Head of Driver Training and Recruitment, Mark Simcox, said:

“I’m delighted with how many people came to see us. We are creating 2,000 job opportunities in the West Midlands over the next three years. We have a great partnership with Birmingham City Council, JobCentre Plus and People Plus [the employment support company]. With them, we are working to lift people from all our West Midlands communities out of unemployment and get them into real careers with good prospects at National Express.”

National Express buses picked up prospective drivers from JobCentres in south Birmingham and brought them to the Acocks Green depot on Fox Hollies Road. There, they looked round the garage and were given an introduction to National Express as an employer. They then took application tests. 78 of them passed these tests, and they will be starting pre-employment checks, assessment and training next week.

Prospective bus drivers at National Express Acocks Green garageSeven people who came to a similar day last month started employment as National Express trainee bus drivers this week.

Paul Phillips, Partnerships Manager at the Department for Work and Pensions, said: 

“It has been really great working with National Express on this project, which continues to deliver opportunities to the people of Birmingham. We were thrilled that so many people took advantage of the chance to meet a major employer, and that 78 of those people are now looking to move into work.”

Simon Bladon, Strategic Partnership and Engagement Manager for PeoplePlus Academies, said:

“PeoplePlus skills are delighted to be working with National Express as a delivery partner. It is exhilarating to work in a true collaborative model, incorporating the employer, the Department for Work and Pensions and a training provider - all sharing the same core vision and values, ensuring that unemployed people move into sustainable, purposeful jobs with great career prospects.”

Local MP Jess Phillips (Labour, Yardley) popped in to meet the prospective bus drivers and support the scheme.

“Routes to Work is an excellent programme,” she said. “It’s really great to see local people being helped to take up local jobs. We need to get people into work as quickly as possible and we need companies to think differently about how to get them there. As usual, National Express is leading the way - just like they did with the Living Wage.”

Ken Billingham from National Express’ driver training centre explained to the jobseekers that they’d be signing up for two years.

“But we don’t just want you for two years,” he said. “We want you for 10, 20 years - 40 if you’ve got it in you. If you make it through, you can work here until you retire.”

Ken told the applicants about shifts, rotas, pay rates (£8.25 an hour during training and £9.34 an hour once qualified) and the free bus pass for drivers and their partners.

Naveed is 26 and lives in Kings Heath.

“It’s been excellent,” he said. “Everyone has been really friendly. I’ve always wanted to drive a bus. My family has an ice-cream van business, so I already know how to drive a van. We take the ice-cream vans to festivals, so I’m quite experienced at dealing with loads of customers. The maths and English tests weren’t too bad, actually. So I think I’m ready.”

Waheed, from Sparkbrook, is 20.

“My uncle Tariq is a bus driver here. He told me about this - he thought I’d like it. My brother worked as a bus driver too for several years. I like driving, so it sounds like a really good job.”

Anyone interested in becoming a bus driver should talk to JobCentre Plus, or go to

Published 20th May 2016