First has announced details of a new, fully accredited driver training programme.
The operator’s Better Journeys for Life Driver Training Programme has been awarded the highly prestigious City and Guilds accreditation, which the company claims is a first for the bus industry in the UK.
The programme is currently being rolled out to new First drivers in Bolton and Southampton. From this September, new drivers from other First depots will begin to receive the new and improved training. Some of the improvements in the new 25 day course include:
- Three days of intensive customer service training;
- A guarantee to ensure a minimum 2:1 driver/trainer ratio at all times;
- An increase of around 30% in the amount of time a driver spends behind the wheel in training;
- New drivers will undergo the Smith System Advanced Safe Driving course and learn how to manage conflict issues;
- Drivers will also perfect their ability to manoeuvre a bus on ‘skill stations’ in the depot before going out on the road;
- Drivers will undergo specific disability awareness training; and
- First has invested in its training rooms and is providing its trainers with extra support and coaching.
The training investment also complements a change of strategy in the recruitment of drivers. First is placing a greater emphasis on attracting new people with a background in customer service who can then be trained to drive buses. An online application, featuring an online assessment, ensures candidates with a customer service and safety focus reach the interview stages.
The overall programme, a £250k investment, was officially launched at First Bolton on July 3. Managing Director of First Bus, Giles Fearnley, said: “Our drivers play a vital role in attracting and retaining our customers. They are our ambassadors and therefore we must ensure they have the right training and the best training.
“Our programme, which is designed to meet the specific needs of our business, places our driver training at the forefront of the bus industry and lays the foundations for further progress. We recognise that the bus sector must became more customer focused and our new driver programme further underlines our commitment to our Better Journeys for Life customer promise.”