Where to get the staff06 March 2019

This month we profile how bus operator Stagecoach is investing in a new source of technical apprentices: its own fleet drivers. The difficulty that the company faces is shared by many others in the industry; no longer can fleet operators rely only on college leavers (see also last month’s roundtable: www.is.gd/kejoxu). No wonder that enterprising operators are looking to supplement their numbers.

But perhaps operators’ own lack of imagination is limiting the scope of their search for potential vehicle technicians. Just in case, here are two suggestions of where to look for talent.

First is the armed forces, and in particular REME, the Corps of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers. Recruits, who sign up as teenagers, cut their teeth on solving engineering issues with its huge array of vehicles and leave after a full 22-year career with decades of working life to go. And SOE’s irtec qualification is offered by the Defence School of Electronic and Mechanical Engineering near Chippenham.

Armed forces leavers have access to retraining and resettlement funds to find work in the civil (non-military) world. However, the industry is not helping itself here, as neither of the subsidised training routes include any kind of vehicle engineering. The MOD’s Career Transition Partnership in-house resettlement training centre in Aldershot only offers engineering courses covering building trades, IT and electrical engineering. And there are no vehicle engineering courses on its preferred supplier list of external providers – even though there are two listings for aviation engineering. Perhaps readers should go along and have a look at the employment fairs on offer: Epsom on 7 March, Newark on 27 March, Edinburgh on 25 April, and Bristol on 13 June.

Another potential source of motivated workers for at least semi-skilled jobs is the long-term unemployed and those with barriers to work. For example, civil engineering firm Story Contracting recently offered a full-time contract to one such candidate, as a general operative at the Govan train depot of Glaswegian subway operator SPT, following work experience and a three-month trial. Robert Craig, construction manager for Story Scotland, says: “We are committed to employability in Scotland and helping those who have gone through a difficult patch to get back into work. This process takes time and it doesn’t happen overnight, but it is certainly worth the investment.”

Story works with non-profit rehabilitation organisation Apex Scotland to pre-qualify and train potential recruits. Although that organisation only operates north of the border, similar organisations in England include Novus and London’s Switchback, as well as regional Community Rehabilitation Companies.

The last word goes to Story’s new recruit, Eddie Kimmins, who is only 31. He had this to say about his placement: “This has been a real boost, a fresh start for me. I’m determined to turn my life around after being out of work for so long. There’s been so little opportunity for me, so when this came along I jumped at it.”

Will Dalrymple

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