Ipswich: Town’s bus company pilots national training scheme

Ipswich Buses staff, from left, opersations manager Dean Robbie, drivers Daryls Pool, Kevin Curtis a

Ipswich Buses staff, from left, opersations manager Dean Robbie, drivers Daryls Pool, Kevin Curtis and Andy Buckman and Nigel Crisp at Tower Ramparts bus station - Credit: Contributed

IPSWICH Buses has piloted a national scheme to train the unemployed to become bus drivers which is proving a big success in the town.

The scheme has been developed by the bus industry lead body, the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT), of which Ipswich Buses managing director Malcolm Robson is the president.

The aim is to help unemployed people enter the bus industry through the development of a PCV (passenger carrying vehicle) sector-based driving academy.

The pilot was introduced by Ipswich Buses in mid 2012 and has so far seen eight new drivers employed with a further six about to start their training course.

The formal agreement for the bus industry was recently signed by Mr Robson and Minister for Employment Mark Hoban, MP.

Mr Robson said: “This scheme is a marvellous example of what can be achieved when industry and government agencies work together. CPT and Ipswich Buses were delighted to be part of this initiative.”

The scheme starts with a seminar at the local Job Centre Plus where Ipswich Buses operations manager Dean Robbie gives a “warts and all” explanation of what the job requires.

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He said: “Some people are surprised when I say we start at 5.30am and work till midnight. But it is shift work and people can fit in with it. We don’t work after midnight though.”

The project moves on to interviews and then to a six-week training programme which includes areas such as customer care as well as driving theory and PCV pratical tests.

“We are looking for customer skills in dealing with people primarily and we are getting a lot of commendations for these guys,” said Mr Robbie. “They are getting qualifications which will give them a job for life.”

At the end of their formal training the new drivers have three weeks on-the-job training with other drivers, before they are then allowed to drive alone.

“We release them on to the road when we are happy with them,” added Mr Robbie.

Among the drivers to have qualified through the scheme are Daryl Pool, Kevin Curtis and Andy Buckman.

“I really enjoy it,” said Mr Pool. “It is putting food on the table and a love of driving and working with the other guys.”

Mr Curtis had been a windscreen fitter, until the business closed, and wasn’t happy without a job. “I wanted to get back to work,” he said.

Mr Buckman added: “I really enjoy the driving and the other chaps really help me out.”

In addition to having a skill which could get them a job elsewhere in the country, Ipswich Buses drivers also get uniforms and bus travel passes for themselves and their immediate families.