Lift-off for IRTE Skills Challenge 2023

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The IRTE Skills Challenge is an annual competition, taking place from 5 to 9 June, with partners S&B Automotive. IRTE

Apprentices and technicians from across the country are gearing up for this year’s IRTE Skills Challenge, with the competition hotting up as the best in the coach and bus sector prepare to show the judges just what they are capable of. Event partner S&B Automotive Academy, which specialises in automotive training & assessment services, is backing the event and will be hosting it at its Bristol HQ.

Engineering’s stars of today and tomorrow will be competing in a series of electrical, mechanical and bodywork tests which the competitions organisers say points to a bright future for the coach and bus sector. Past winners of the Challenge are already enjoying the boost to their careers that taking part offers, organisers said, encouraging other apprentices to take up the gauntlet.

Kieron Briggs of Lothian Buses, who won the Judges’ Choice award at the IRTE Skills Challenge in 2022, said that his win has given him the perfect platform to take his career to the next level. He said: “It was really interesting because I came across – and worked with – a lot of new components during the challenge and I’ll be using them on the new buses and coaches of the future. I wasn’t actually expecting to win and it was a bit of a shock when my name was announced but I put a lot of effort into my work, and I’ve had some great people behind me. It’s definitely a confidence-booster for the future.”

Danielle Curtis of FirstBus, winner of the Top Scoring Electric Driveline Apprentice and Top Scoring Electrical Apprentice awards at the Skills Challenge in 2022, knows all about success, too, having won awards in last year’s Challenge. She said: “This is the second year where I’ve competed and it’s the second year that I’ve won! I really enjoy it and it will definitely help me to progress after my apprenticeship.”

Suppliers and manufacturers, too, are behind the Challenge as it continues to shine a spotlight on the knowledge, talent and competitiveness that makes the sector what it is today. Carl Wilson, Head of Sales at Filtration Control, said: “There’s a lot of knowledge on show and the engineers really enjoy coming to the event. It’s certainly a part of the future, that’s for sure.”

Supplier of braking systems and safety-critical rail and commercial vehicle equipment Knorr-Bremse is another sponsor that is again backing the Skills Challenge.

Host S&B Automotive’s Operations Director Richard Belton, meanwhile, said that hosting the event is crucial as training and development is something that never stands still. Applications for this year’s event are now open and the Testing Week itself takes place at S&B’s HQ in Bristol on 5-9 June.