Beating the odds

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Belle Vue Manchester’s Reece Deakins, Support Staff Gold Award winner at the UK Coach Awards, speaks to Angela Youngman about the challenges he has overcome to qualify as a mechanic

Reece Deakins, centre, is seen collecting his Gold Support Staff Award at the UK Coach Awards earlier this year. UK COACH AWARDS

Told at school that he would not amount to anything, Reece Deakins is understandably proud of himself. Not only has he obtained several professional qualifications, but he has just been named Support Staff Gold Award Winner in the 2018 UK Coach Awards. [wlm_nonmember][…]

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As Belle Vue’s Donna Thompson commented: “We chose Reece as a candidate for the awards due to his enthusiasm to succeed. He came to Belle Vue with a ‘can’t do’ attitude, and through encouragement from our team, he is now a ‘can do’ person and passes this enthusiasm on to the new starters. We have had five apprentices over the last two years and Reece has helped them achieve their goals with his motivation, caring nature and his can do attitude.”

It has undoubtedly been a major challenge for Reece to reach this standard, simply because he suffers from serious dyslexia. In a world where reading and the written word is crucial to communication, dyslexia can make life very, very difficult. Bullied at school, and leaving without any qualifications, Reece is now a highly qualified mechanic.

Optare Versa hybrids are operated by Belle Vue on TfGM school contracts. BELLE VUE COACHES

Studying part time at Manchester College, Reece has obtained:
• Level 3 NVQ Vehicle Maintenance and Repair HGV/PCV;
• Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations (LOLER) servicing and maintenance;
• Hybrid Safety Awareness – working with electric and hybrid vehicles; and
• IRTEC Inspection Technician course giving him an IRTEC Licence.


Reece has always been drawn towards vehicles. A very practical person, he initially started work cleaning buses in the yard after school. His determination to succeed was quickly recognised. Reece went on to join the company as an apprentice after leaving school in 2009.

“I have been with Belle Vue for 12 years now. They have encouraged me to develop and continue my education. I spent one day a week at college, the rest of the time working at Belle Vue. It was hard work. It took me four years to pass the courses due to my struggles with English and Maths. It was hard to go and be taught at college, and it did get me very stressed because of my dyslexia.

Now I am the garage supervisor, maintaining buses and supervising the work of the fitters,” Reece said.

Supporting young people to develop careers in the coach and bus industry has always been a key part of Belle Vue’s management strategy. It is a company which has grown substantially, from just five coaches when it was founded in 1993 to over 70 today. Maintaining those vehicles in tip top condition is a priority and having staff who can carry out short-notice maintenance on all types of coaches and buses is essential. Belle Vue operates across the North West of England, the UK and EU and also has a small fleet of vintage vehicles which are supplied for use at corporate events, weddings, school proms and other events.

Reece is seen with Leigh Olsen, another UK Coach Award winner from Belle Vue who was recognised for her customer service role. UK COACH AWARDS

Overcoming challenges

Nominating Reece for the award showed how much the company recognised the scale of the difficulties he has experienced. In its nomination, Belle Vue commented that ‘it has not been an easy ride for Reece, who has dyslexia, but this has not stopped from achieving his goal. He is a charismatic member of the team, always helping others and assisting with the learning of the new apprentices. Reece is always the first to volunteer should the company be a man down or if someone is required at the last minute.’

His dyslexia will always be a problem, as he acknowledges, yet he refuses to let it get in the way of his work and career. “When I was nominated for the award, Donna helped me with the application,” said Reece. “She told me what to say. I did struggle writing it. I struggle with the reading and writing in my job, especially filling out forms, but people are very patient. Belle Vue is very understanding about my problem. I have a speaker phone and that helps, and people write things down for me. It is a continuing challenge for me.

“I didn’t think I would win the award. There were so many other people. I did get excited when my name was called. It was nice to be going up on stage, and it made me feel good. I was not just a number but someone who has achieved something. It reflects the support the company has given me in my job. I am very dedicated to my job and I will do anything for Belle Vue. They have been really good to me.”

He continued: “I did experience bullying as a child because of my dyslexia. Not many people from the area from which I come achieve the things I have done. I have worked very hard to get where I am now and doing what I do.”

A variable job

As garage supervisor, no two days are ever the same. Every vehicle poses its own challenges. Quite apart from the regular maintenance programme and MOT testing, every vehicle undergoes a daily walk round vehicle check as well as a 28-day vehicle inspection check.

Reece received a lot of credit for continuing to improve his personal skills in spite of the severe dyslexia he suffers from

Reece is prepared to try and solve any problem working in the yard or out on the road. His work can involve irregular hours as he is responsible for dealing with out of hours breakdowns at weekends or at night.

“It is not just fixing a bus – there is always a lot of stress because people are always asking how long it will take. People want to go home and I am trying to help them get home. They think it is your fault and sometimes can be unpleasant.

“Now when I am going out to a bus, the first thing I always ask is ‘are there any passengers on board?’ If so, can we get a bus out to them. I don’t like letting people down, I like going the extra mile to help out.”

Reece recalled one such incident with some amusement: “Belle Vue did a school trip to Alton Towers. It was a big one, with 10 school buses involved and the school was my old high school. I went along to care for the buses in case anything went wrong.

“On the journey back, I was on the last bus to leave Alton Towers when a message came through that one of the buses had broken down 10 minutes from where I was. A pipe had burst on the bus. I turned up and got to work.

“Some of the teachers came out to find out how long it would take. They were my old teachers who had never had any time for me. One of the teachers had even told me that I would never get anywhere or amount to anything. Now they were relying on me! They were very surprised to find me fixing their bus. It made me feel very good because I had proved them wrong.”

Reece loves the versatility of his job. He commented: “Every day is different and that is what I like about the job. There is always something different to do. I like doing jobs I have not done before like mechanical stuff on the bus. When we have a new bus in such as the hybrid buses, there is always something new to learn.”

Securing the award

It is this willingness to learn and sheer determination to succeed that impressed not just his employers, but the UK Coach Awards judges. He has persevered in his education despite the problems caused by his dyslexia. Reece is always keen to go on refresher courses to improve his skills, knowing that he will learn something new.

The varied fleet operated by Belle Vue includes double-decker coaches, such as this Bova Synergy VDK SB4000. MIKE SHEATHER

Above all else, winning the award has enabled Reece to grow in confidence. Discovering that other people value what he does and believe he can do a good job has made him feel very positive. It is a situation that has clearly reversed his original ‘can’t do attitude’, reflecting how valuable encouraging young people to try and exceed their expectations can be, especially when disheartened by problems at school.

He commented: “I would recommend other people to apply for an award. It is really helpful to have one for your career.

“I got nowhere at school. Teachers and people didn’t think much of me. I am a very practical person and I have got where I am by working hard.

“It was a surprise when Donna called me in and told me I had been nominated. We have got a lot of other people here whom I thought were better, but I was the one nominated. It gave me a good feeling, because it showed people were looking at me differently now. It is another step in my career and has encouraged me to work for my PSV licence. The theory test was very hard because of my reading and writing, but I passed.

“Having the award gave me the confidence to go ahead. I knew I could do it.”