First Bus partners with college to train future bus and coach engineers
First Bus has partnered with Cheshire’s Reaseheath College to establish the UK’s first Bus and Coach Engineering Academy to train engineers on zero-emission buses and address existing skills gaps.
Credit: First Bus - Programme Leader Simon Bishop (left) with First Bus apprentices.
First Bus has announced that it has helped to establish the UK’s first Bus and Coach Engineering Academy with hybrid electric buses for training apprentices on the next generation of zero-emission vehicles. The operator has partnered with Reaseheath College in Nantwich, Cheshire to open the national centre, which welcomed its first apprentices in October 2021.
First West of England has loaned two ADL Enviro 400 VE (virtual electric) hybrids to support training in a purpose-built workshop facility dedicated to the company’s trainee engineers. Other First Bus operating businesses have also donated vehicles and purchased equipment. This includes an Enviro 300 from the Adderley Green depot of First Midlands, an engineering training bus from Central engineering, air tools supplied by First West Yorkshire, together with a range of spare parts and plans for a Volvo from Eastern Counties in Norwich.
Reaseheath College has invested some £50,000 in new equipment. The facility adopts a work experience-style environment to help instil a workplace mindset among apprentices and maintain a seamless switch from depot to learning.
Ian Warr, Engineering Director at First Bus, said: “Creating this academy has needed a collective effort by our businesses around the country to ensure that our apprentices have the best start to their training and careers. We’ve been determined to make sure that access to vehicles and equipment for technical skills development matches the superb study environment at the college. 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 bus engineers with the right knowledge to maintain the next generation of buses.”
The new engineering academy has broken the mould of traditional UK apprenticeships, with the introduction of a 12-week block release – twice that of other courses – with trainees attending for a series of four three-week classroom and practical residential visits over the course of a year.
Engineering Directors and Managers from First Bus have had direct input into the course content and delivery – a contribution not previously possible with other programmes.
Reaseheath College’s Curriculum Area Manager for Engineering Apprentices, Katie Whiteman, commented: “This exciting new collaboration with First Bus has enabled us to offer the expertise of industry professionals within a teaching and learning college environment. We have created a first-class apprenticeship programme for the bus and coach sector, which addresses existing skills gaps and will respond to the future skills requirement within the sector.”
Programme Leader Simon Bishop added: “I am thrilled to be leading on this newly-launched First Bus apprenticeship programme. I believe that our state-of-the-art engineering workshops, on-site accommodation and specialist classrooms offer an exceptional environment for learning. We also offer the added benefit of our safeguarding team, ensuring that all apprentices are fully supported round-the-clock.”
First Bus currently has 22 apprentices in the 2021 to 2022 intake at the academy, aged 16-30, which includes three female trainees.
Bus & Coach