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Apprentices keep Sunderland bus firm in the fast lane

apprentice Brice Hall at work, Colin Close of Arriva and Leanne Marston of Gateshead College

A North East transport operator is creating a raft of apprenticeship posts after extending a trailblazing workforce development scheme delivered by Gateshead College.

Last year Sunderland-based Arriva teamed up with the college to kick-start a training programme specifically tailored to the bus firm’s business needs, which included a requirement for additional coach-building, body repair, electrical and mechanical engineering skills. 

An initial tranche of apprentices was hired to fill the gap and their work across Arriva’s North East sites helped the transport firm boost revenues in 2016.

However, with extra skills in these core discipline still required, the company has extended the scheme into a second year and has created roles for around 15 new apprentices who will work towards level two and level three qualifications while learning valuable practical skills on the four-year programme. If they impress, they have a chance of being taken on full-time at Arriva after they have completed the apprenticeship. 

Steve Rowell, engineering director for the North East and Yorkshire at Arriva, said: “This fantastic partnership with Gateshead College puts apprenticeships at the heart of our skills development programme. I started my apprenticeship in 1992 so I know how valuable they can be in helping people to forge a successful career within their chosen discipline.

“Apprenticeships are also hugely beneficial to Arriva and since we started working with the college we’ve managed to plug skills gaps in certain areas. As older members of our workforce retire, we want to ensure we have a work-ready pipeline of engineering expertise to replace them.”

Arriva now has around 200 engineering staff in the North East and Yorkshire. A major provider of bus services around the North East of England, the company operates around 794 buses and runs regular services as far north as Berwick-upon-Tweed and south into North Yorkshire.

Ivan Jepson, director of business development at Gateshead College, said: “This is another great example of how we work with employers to deliver the qualifications and training they need. We share Arriva’s commitment to apprenticeships and we’re working with the company to ensure it has the skills to be successful in a highly competitive marketplace.

“On a wider basis, our training programmes are helping to drive growth in key sectors across the North East and this can only be good for the regional economy.”

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