Winner: Go North East Bus Driver Routeway: Go North East in partnership with Jobcentre Plus and Gateshead College

A need for new bus drivers and a local unemployment crisis led the North East region’s third largest employer, bus company Go North East (GNE), to partner with Gateshead College and Jobcentre Plus to launch an innovative training and skills development programme, aimed at supporting people back into work, with the opportunity of securing one of 250 driver jobs. Running until July 2017, the Go North East East Bus Driver Routeway programme was completed by 99 local people. Of those who took part, 45 – almost half – secured driving roles with Go North East, compared with just 9% of traditional route applicants.

• Unemployment in the North East is higher than anywhere else in the UK. Meanwhile, the bus and coach industry is facing a national skills shortage, and there are concerns about the regional skills gap. GNE employee attrition is below the national average, but this critical role requires a constant recruitment cycle.

• The bespoke nature of the training programme ensures that candidates meet the specific needs of the role and business, and are provided with the best possible chance of success throughout each stage of the recruitment process.

• Jobcentre Plus helps to recruit applicants and covers their expenses. The programme provides high-quality support to all, from the start of recruitment. Unlike the standard GNE application process, which includes an online application form, those coming through this process receive intensive expert training and mentoring right through to interview.

• The free four-week programme combines professional training courses, 99% of which are delivered by Gateshead College. Tyneside Training Services conducts practical driving assessments and tuition. GNE delivers a driver skills training course, plus depot tours, a company induction, and health & safety and occupational health training. Those who do not secure a GNE role now have transferable skills to support them into alternative employment.

• Feedback from participants who have been successful or unsuccessful in gaining employment with GNE has been overwhelmingly positive, with many sharing that they have benefited personally as well as professionally.

Judges’ Comments:

“Not only was this partnership a solution to a need for drivers, but it filled roles for other local businesses and helped local residents get back to work”