Record intake selected from a record number of applications.

FirstGroup has selected 17 graduates for its 2011/12 intake, the largest to date, from a record 749 applications.

Linda Guthrie, the bus and rail operator’s head of learning and development, said she was overwhelmed by the response: “Our graduate schemes are always popular, we’ve earned a very good reputation for the quality and variety of our programmes.

“We generally receive around 500 applications each year, so to have received 50% more this year is quite surprising. I think it demonstrates that young people are increasingly interested in a career in the transport industry and in particular with FirstGroup – the largest public transport operator in the UK.”

The news comes at Stagecoach revealed that its UK Bus graduate management programme had also received a record number of applications (PT010), with 654 applying for six places.

FirstGroup’s 17 graduates – 12 male and five female – will begin work at the group on September 5 with a four-day induction at its headquarters in Aberdeen. The groups’ graduate programme will offer them experience of life across both bus and rail divisions, in a variety of disciplines, ensuring that they have a sound understand of the business as a whole.

“At FirstGroup we are very conscious of the need to invest, train and develop our staff,” said Guthrie. “The transport industry plays a vital role in keeping the economy moving. It is imperative therefore that we attract talented, enthusiastic people to our industry.

“We want to attract the cream of Britain’s graduates – we’ve certainly achieved that given the calibre and potential of our 17 new recruits.”

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