There aren't many bigger champions of apprenticeships than Go North East's engineering director, Colin Barnes, who describes the difference they're making to the business
“Why invest in apprenticeships? Of course, you’re going to ask this before making a decision to spend your hard-earned cash on upskilling your workforce.
“I work for a company that really gets the benefits of having apprentices, and I can honestly say it’s worth making the effort. For a start, they bring new skills and fresh ideas. They also give young people an insight into the world of work and a helping hand onto the career ladder.
“Put simply, that’s why we’ve been investing in apprenticeships for more than a century developing home-grown talent, providing great careers for young people, plugging skills gaps and giving our business the best chance of being successful.
“Right now, we’re delivering a unique bus and coach engineering and maintenance apprenticeship with Gateshead College. It’s a really innovative scheme that’s helping to tackle skills shortages in our sector. We’ve more than 30 apprentices studying at various levels of the four-year programme, which attracts around 500 applications each year. “It’s great to work with an organisation like Gateshead College. They really understand us, our business and our sector; without them our apprenticeship programme wouldn’t be the success it is today. It’s got a fantastic reputation in the industry and we’ve not only won regional awards for it, but national acclaim in the routeone Bus and Coach Transport Awards and the Recruiter Awards.
“More importantly it is making a difference to our business performance. It’s helping us to put our succession plans in place; if team members retire or get a promotion, we need fresh talent to come in and pick up where they left off and that is fundamental to our long-term sustainability.
“The programme has helped us massively by allowing us to have a team of highly skilled technicians across the region. By investing in apprenticeships, we’ll continue to have new talent coming through, with new trainees mentored by former apprentices who’ve been there and done it. This will help us become even more efficient and develop new markets for our business, such as electric buses and hybrid technology.
“There’s also another, more personal, reason why I’m such a firm supporter of apprenticeships. I started with Go North East as an apprentice at 16 and I’ve just been promoted to engineering director so I guess I’m living proof that this form of training leads to a great career. I’d encourage other companies that are thinking about investing in apprenticeships to do so. It worked for me, it works for the business that employs me and it can work for other ambitious businesses.”