Region’s buses provide another skills boost

National Express West Midlands launch first driving skills academy

The region’s biggest bus operator and Birmingham’s biggest private sector employer, National Express West Midlands, has today launched its new Sector Based Work Academy with Minister for Employment Esther McVey MP.  The academy is the first in Britain to focus on driving skills.

The Sector Based Work Academy will see National Express West Midlands take skills training and job opportunities to communities across the region.  The academy will be showcasing the skills the company has on offer and helping people decide on careers in the business all year round in Birmingham, the Black Country and Coventry.

During the launch Esther McVey MP heard from those who are currently in training because of the academy, took a turn behind the wheel of a bus and spoke of the need for other companies to follow National Express West Midlands' lead.

The scheme - Sector Based Work Academy – combines elements of training and work experience to help young people get ready for the world of work, and then ends with a guaranteed interview to give them the chance to showcase their talents and secure a job. The key feature of Sector-Based Work Academies is that they offer a flexible approach and can be adapted to meet the needs of employers. Sector Based Work Academies is one aspect of the Government’s wider Youth Contract which also involves Work Experience, Wage Incentives, on top of the standard support package offered through Jobcentres.

The academy is the last pledge to be delivered by the Routes to Work partnership between National Express West Midlands and the JobCentre Plus.  Routes to Work was the first agreement of its kind and saw Birmingham’s biggest private sector employer and JobCentre Plus agree to a host of measures to ensure that more young people and women got behind the wheel of the region’s buses.  The partnership also helped long term unemployed people back into work and provided additional training for those who had been out of work the longest.

So far Routes to Work has helped over 1,000 people find employment with National Express West Midlands, lowered the age of the company’s workforce by four years and seen a record number of women apply to be bus drivers.

Esther McVey, Minister for Employment, said: "Young people who want to get into work tell us that the Sector Based Work Academy scheme has given them the skills and opportunities to get their foot on the career ladder.

"The scheme is designed to help young people into work and it combines training and work experience with a guaranteed interview.  Already in Birmingham, businesses have set up 169 different academies that have delivered this scheme across a range of sectors including retail, hospitality and tourism.

"This is the first national academy to focus on driving skills - and I'd call more businesses to open up their doors to support young people who want to work hard and get on in life."

Madi Pilgrim, HR Director at National Express West Midlands said: "We are really proud to have launched Britain’s first Sector Based Work Academy for driving skills.  Driving buses is a very skilful job and done in some of the most testing conditions, such as heavy traffic and bad weather.  It is vital that we continue to employ great people, who have the best training and who will provide our customers with the service they expect – that is why this academy is so important to us."

Photographs show, left: Minister for Employment Esther McVey MP and Madi Pilgrim, HR Director at National Express West Midlands launching the company’s new Sector Based Work Academy and right: Minister for Employment Esther McVey MP with National Express West Midlands driver trainer Adrian Allcock 

Published 15th January 2014