Roads Minister visits First Bus apprenticeship training centre

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Roads Minister Richard Holden MP visited trainees at First Bus’ dedicated training college in Cheshire to mark National Apprenticeship Week. FIRST

First Bus’ national engineering training programme at Reaseheath College in Cheshire is helping the operator’s drive to a zero-emission future

First Bus and Reaseheath College recently hosted Roads Minister Richard Holden MP at the college’s dedicated coach and bus training academy ahead of National Apprenticeship Week. First teamed up with the college in 2021 to create a dedicated apprentice training academy to help create engineers of the future for the bus industry, and the facility recreates a bus depot environment for apprentices as part of a 12-week training programme.

First Bus welcomed the Roads and Local Transport Minister to see the progress of what it says was the UK’s first dedicated coach and bus engineering training facility as part of National Apprenticeship Week, which ran from 6 to 12 February. The college, based in Nantwich, Cheshire first opened in October 2021, and has seen over £650k of investment since the launch of the partnership with First Bus.

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. The Minister was given a full tour of the facility by First Bus Chief Operating Officer Andrew Jarvis and Head of Engineering Excellence Tony Cockcroft alongside Marcus Clinton, Principal and Chief Executive of Reaseheath College.

First Bus has a total of 132 apprentices in its businesses across England, Scotland and Wales, with 82 of those currently learning at the Reaseheath facility, specialising in mechanical and electrical engineering, coach building and stores.

Minister Holden said of the project: “Driving good skilled jobs across engineering and science across the country, and discovering new-age technologies to tackle pollution go hand in hand. Apprenticeships are at the heart of the Government’s mission to boost skills and employment, and it was brilliant to see the great work from First Bus with apprentices here in Reaseheath College, paving the way for exciting careers in a zero-emission bus future.”

Andrew Jarvis added: “The creation of the facility at Reaseheath College has been a game-changer for our apprenticeship programme. It has been a concentrated collective effort by our local business units around the country to ensure our apprentices have the best start to their training and the partnership with the team at Reaseheath College has been a huge part of this process.

“We’ve been determined to make sure access to vehicles and equipment for technical skills development are best-in-class and the programme is industry leading in order to recreate a realistic depot environment for our apprentices. 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 engineers with the right knowledge to maintain the current and next generation of buses to help future-proof our business.”

Principal and Chief Executive of Reaseheath College Marcus Clinton explained more: “We were delighted to welcome the Minister here today as it gave us the opportunity to show off the unique apprenticeship programme which we deliver in partnership with First Bus. By working closely with First Bus we have been able to shape a relevant curriculum delivering a first-class combination of technical and employability skills which meet the specific needs of the company and also guarantees jobs for the apprentices.

“This very successful model puts First Bus firmly in the driving seat and demonstrates the very best example of an educational institution working in unity with an industry partner. Reaseheath is well known for this type of co-operative partnership and this leading-edge approach is certainly something to celebrate during National Apprenticeship Week.”