It’s National Apprenticeship Week and the passenger transport sector has been showcasing its success in delivering apprentices

Megan Cooke

As the country marks National Apprenticeship Week, key players in the passenger transport sector shed light on some of the work they have been doing to attract new talent and develop their skills.

This special section of Passenger Transport is devoted to that work. It includes articles on Stagecoach and Go-Ahead Group, which have been industry-leaders on apprenticeships.

Stagecoach was the first public transport organisation to offer a flagship driver apprenticeship scheme as well as an engineering apprenticeship programme, and last year received recognition as a Top 100 apprentice employer. Go-Ahead Group, which last month announced plans to hire more than 1,000 apprentices in 2023, was ranked as one of the UK’s top 20 apprenticeship employers in 2022.

Here is a summary of how some other players in the passenger transport sector marked National Apprenticeship Week:

First Bus

First Bus welcomed roads and local transport minister Richard Holden to Reaseheath College to see the progress of the UK’s first dedicated bus and coach engineering facility as part of National Apprenticeship Week.

A partnership between First Bus and Reaseheath helped to establish the bus and coach engineering academy. Apprentices are trained on the current fleet mix alongside the next generation of zero-emission vehicles, creating a clear pathway for future talent to progress into the industry.

Reaseheath College in Nantwich, Cheshire, opened the national centre in partnership with First Bus back in October 2021. Together they have transformed the college’s Hurleston Road site into a bespoke engineering apprentice academy.

Over £650k investment has gone into the training academy since the launch of the partnership with First Bus. The facility adopts a work experience-style environment to help instill a workplace mindset among apprentices and maintain a seamless switch from depot to learning for the apprentices. First Bus currently has a total of 132 apprentices in the business across England, Scotland and Wales, with 82 of those currently learning at the Reaseheath facility, specialising in mechanical and electrical engineering, coach building and stores.
First Bus chief operating officer Andrew Jarvis said that the creation of the facility at Reaseheath College had been a game-changer for First Bus’s apprenticeship programme.

It’s vitally important that we build a pipeline of highly skilled engineers with the right knowledge to maintain the current and next generation of buses to help futureproof our business

“We’ve been determined to make sure access to vehicles and equipment for technical skills development are best-in-class and the programme is industry leading in order to recreate a realistic depot environment for our apprentices,” he said. “Zero-emission engine technologies are evolving rapidly as First Bus invests in greener fleets to reduce carbon and improve air quality. It’s vitally important that we build a pipeline of highly skilled engineers with the right knowledge to maintain the current and next generation of buses to help futureproof our business.”

Alexander Dennis

Ahead of National Apprenticeship Week, bus builder Alexander Dennis announced enhancements to its AD24 Training Academy courses for apprentices in order to ‘futureproof’ the bus industry’s workforce.

The developments to the training are aimed to reflect the evolving industry and close a widening skills gap. The training will continually be developed further to incorporate new technologies and vehicles – including battery-electric and hydrogen-fuel cell buses – alongside traditional diesel systems.

Apprentices coming into the industry today are the future of the workforce that will require a highly specialised skill set

Tony Davis, group aftermarket director at Alexander Dennis, said: “Apprentices coming into the industry today are the future of the workforce that will require a highly specialised skill set. The advancements in vehicles and automotive technology will only continue to develop so we need the next generation of vehicle technicians and engineers to be trained effectively. Apprentices are key to the success of this generation, and National Apprenticeship Week serves as a reminder of a great route into the industry where you can become highly qualified.”

In its most recent Automotive Sector Employment Report, the Institute of the Motor Industry warned of a ‘significant’ skills crisis in the UK’s automotive sector with vehicle technicians being the most in-demand role by 2031. It predicts that there will be 160,000 vacancies in the sector by 2031 and 16% of these will be for technicians. It found that the switch to electric vehicles, decreased immigration and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic are fuelling an escalating skills crisis.

Training for bus operators’ apprentices is part of the expert training school from the manufacturer’s aftermarket service, AD24. Any company in the bus and coach industry can use the AD24 Training Academy to provide apprentices and other employees with external training for their individual learning and development. All courses are fully approved by the Institute of the Motor Industry.
The AD24 apprentice training course upskills apprentices on the electric systems used on modern buses as well as teaching
how to electronically troubleshoot using multi-meters and the latest diagnostic tools.

Davis explained: “Whilst mechanical components still form the backbone running gear on a bus, even on diesel buses most mechanical components are now controlled using CAN lines, ECUs and multiplex systems. Our approach is to teach the skills to create a good technician, rather than just a mechanic.”

AD24 encourages in-person classroom training, and this can take place at both Alexander Dennis’s state-of-the-art facilities in Farnborough, opened in summer 2022, or on-site at the location of the trainees.


HS2 used National Apprenticeship Week to confirm that 300 more apprenticeship jobs will be created. Over 1,100 people of all ages and backgrounds have already secured an HS2 apprenticeship. The week’s announcement puts HS2 within reach of its 2,000 apprenticeships target before civils works even begin on the northern extension of the network. 80 apprenticeship jobs were due to go live this week, with more to follow in the weeks ahead, as HS2 expands the nearly 30,000 strong workforce designing and building the new high speed network between London, the Midlands and Manchester. HS2 has teamed up with colleges and universities across the country to ensure apprentices benefit from a high standard of education and training in their chosen subject area. Their learning is enhanced through hands-on work experience.

Transport for Wales

Transport for Wales showcased its commitment to developing its staff by joining The 5% Club, a movement of more than 700 employers providing ‘earn and learn’ opportunities to develop the skills and talents people need to become more employable and create meaningful careers. Companies joining The 5% Club commit to raising the number of apprentices, sponsored students and graduates on formal programmes to 5% of their total workforce within five years.

We understand the importance of providing opportunities for not only young people but for those who may wish for a career change

Over the last year, TfW have welcomed 122 new apprentices to the business, providing opportunities in engineering, operational and head office roles. Katie Harris, strategic organisational lead – early talent at TfW, said: “At TfW we’re fully aligned with helping the Welsh Government create its target of 125,000 new apprenticeship opportunities by 2026. We understand the importance of providing opportunities for not only young people but for those who may wish for a career change and we’re excited to be committing to and joining The 5% Club.”


London North Eastern Railway (LNER) marked National Apprenticeship Week with a special video to spotlight the vital role apprenticeships play in supporting the development of it existing employees, and attracting fresh talent into the rail industry. With more than 150 apprentices working across its business, the intercity train operator offers a wide range of apprenticeships from train driving and engineering to HR, finance and customer experience.

Megan Cooke, who worked in hearing care before becoming an apprentice train driver at LNER, said: “By the time I get through the apprenticeship training, I will have every tool needed to be an LNER Azuma train driver. I know that when I’m given my key to the cab and told to go out there by myself for the first time, that I will have earned it.”


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This article appears in the latest issue of Passenger Transport.

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