Go-Ahead hires 650 bus and rail apprentices during Covid-19 pandemic

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A diverse range of candidates applied to join Go-Ahead’s apprentice schemes during 2020

Go-Ahead Group has reported that apprenticeship applications have doubled in rail and jumped by a third in bus as transport attracts coronavirus career switchers. The operator said that recruits in 2020 included a former airline pilot, a former member of the French Foreign Legion, a prison van driver and a guitar instructor.

The Group says it has recruited more than 50 apprentices a month during 2020 despite the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Go-Ahead Group has recruited more than 650 apprentices during the pandemic. GO-AHEAD GROUP

Go-Ahead London has hired more than 300 apprentice bus drivers, of whom it says that 17% are female – significantly above the 12 per cent national average of female bus drivers. Apprenticeship programmes have been hit hard across numerous sectors due to Covid-19, with apprentice starts have decreasing by nearly 50% in 2020 according to the Department of Education. In spite of the challenging environment, Go-Ahead has pushed ahead with its scheme, which it says demonstrates the company’s commitment to training and push for championing diversity, and adapted its programme to ensure colleagues’ safety, including social distancing and implementing new distance-learning educational tools.

Go-Ahead’s Group People Director Scott Maynard said: “The pandemic has prompted many people to change careers – either through choice or because their previous jobs have become untenable. A lot of people who wouldn’t have previously considered working in bus and rail are looking at opportunities in the industry in a new light.

“Public transport is critical for our future and is essential in the fight against poor air quality and climate change. We will always need great people to help us drive our buses, maintain our trains and help passengers on their journeys. Apprenticeships are just one of the ways we are investing in our future.”

Johnathan Marshall joined as an apprentice bus driver at Go-Ahead London. An ex-service man for the French Foreign Legion who has also worked as a business and development manager, Johnathan said: “I was a business development and impact manager for Fitness First. In my previous life I spent six and a half years in the French Foreign Legion. I was discharged with honours as I was shot in the head – at the time I was a caporal chef, which is a sergeant in UK terms. I worked in Karachi, then was sent to Djibouti to train as a paratrooper. After that I was in Bong, in the north of Liberia, where I was shot after being captured.

Fellow apprentice bus driver Koli Begum was working for a charity for disabled children when she decided to take the plunge and apply to become a bus driver. Initially, she worried about her height as she is under 5ft and thought she would be turned away. But after a quick test in the cab, she was able to train to become a driver. Koli said that often in her previous role she had to wait at bus stops to be able to board with a child using a wheelchair which makes her particularly aware of the struggles faced by disabled passengers on public transport. Although she said the job can be challenging at times, she said that she enjoys interacting with the public and that its a job where you must be self-motivated and with the right mind set will find it very rewarding.