Stagecoach North East is helping to launch the careers of four new engineering apprentices and set them on a path to employment in the industry.
The local bus operator has taken on the quartet to train at its depots in Sunderland, Newcastle and Stockton, where they will undertake a four-year programme in mechanical and electrical engineering.
The apprenticeship offers a combination of block release training to achieve the Technical Certificate in Bus and Coach Engineering Maintenance, and on the job training at the local depot.
Having moved from Texas in the US ten years ago, 33-year-old Ashley Lane, now living in Darlington, has just started her engineering apprenticeship at the Teesside bus depot in Stockton-on-Tees.
Previously an office administrator, as well as working in the retail industry, Ashley wanted to take a big chance and set her career in a completely new direction. As she was interested in engineering, she considered taking a leap into the unknown and now plans to develop her vocation as a mechanical and electrical engineer.
Ashley said: “I don't have a background in engineering, but I've always enjoyed problem solving, getting stuck in and making things work. I come from a long line of hands on, ‘do it yourself’ women and have a natural inclination towards this type of work.
“I had begun to feel like it was too late to start over and retrain but when I found this apprenticeship opportunity with Stagecoach, it looked ideal for changing careers, so I went for it!
“My new colleagues and fellow first year apprentice, James, have been incredibly helpful and welcoming. Everyone explains things as they go along, and it has been easy to settle in. I now look forward to each work day, learning and progressing in my new career path.”
Engineering most definitely runs in the family for new apprentice, James Liddle, as his Granddad and Great Uncle worked at diesel engineering manufacturer Cummins. The 19-year-old from Darlington is following in his family’s footsteps, as he takes up the engineering apprenticeship at the Stockton bus depot.
After studying science and sports studies at Queen Elizabeth Sixth Form College, James tried to secure an apprenticeship but with no luck. So he considered different career options and decided to pursue a BTEC Level 3 in Engineering at Darlington Technical College.
James said: “I was not sure what I wanted to do after school so I went to sixth form and applied for apprenticeships with no success. Then I thought about engineering as it was something I also had an interest and after finishing my studies I had a few interviews and secured this apprenticeship, so I am really pleased.
“I am six weeks into the role and already I have changed a water pump and helped to strip an engine. There is a real sense of pride when you have a problem and you can fix it.”
24-year-old James Elliott from Chichester in South Shields has joined the team at the Sunderland depot. After leaving school, James went straight into employment as a ride operator at a fairground, dismantling the ride to maintain them and re-assembling them for operation.
While this has given James an opportunity to learn and develop his engineering skills and provided great experience, he was unable to find employment as an engineer due to lack of qualifications. After studying his GCSEs at Mortimer Community College, James was successful at demonstrating his learning and enthusiasm and landed the apprenticeship with Stagecoach.
James said: “It has taken me a while to find the right opportunity for a career for the rest of my life but here I am. After starting last month, I am now taking wheels off and replacing them under supervision, greasing the kingpins, checking oil levels and the general service side of things. I am shadowing my mentor as best as I can and picking up as much as possible to go forward with but I can’t wait to do more and get stuck in on my own. But it is all part of the learning experience.”
Luke Curry, 18 from Hebburn in Tyne and Wear knew a career in engineering was for him and after leaving school, studied a BTEC level 3 subsidiary diploma at St Joseph’s Sixth Form College.
After joining the team at the Walkergate depot in Newcastle, Luke said: “It was a theory-based engineering course, which then prompted me to go for a more hands on engineering course, so I can now apply the theory to my apprenticeship.
“There are plenty of engineering apprenticeships in the north east to choose from but there are definitely ones that are much better than others, such as Stagecoach, with good money and a great qualification.
“The Walkergate team needed a more electrical-biased engineer and I do both mechanical and electrical engineering. My mentor, Jonathan Gardener, is an electrician so I have been shadowing him a lot and learning from him. I have already completed some minor tasks by myself such as battery maintenance and emergency exit buzzers and it is going really well.”
The local bus operator offers apprenticeship opportunities in body or combined mechanical and electrical engineering and the apprentices will be spending the next four years gaining hands-on practical training while studying at college in Glasgow over eight one-week blocks, each year.
As engineering apprentices, they will learn all aspects of vehicle maintenance through their workshop experience, preparing vehicles for the road, conducting MOT’s and making repairs. As part of the training programme, every apprentice is guided by a nominated mentor from the company who will provide support and advice throughout the four-year scheme.
Gary Chisholm, Engineering Director at Stagecoach North East, said: “We are committed to developing our staff, and offering apprenticeship opportunities is a great way to bring young people into the company and nurture their skills from the outset of their professional career. James, Ashley, Luke and James show great promise and I am sure that they will be an asset to the engineering teams, so we are delighted to welcome them aboard.
“The four-year course gives all our apprentices the opportunity to train while earning and we find that once qualified our trainees remain with the company for most, if not all, of their working life. The Group training scheme has produced a number of competent skilled staff in all the engineering skill ranges over the years the programme has been running and I am sure that this year’s apprentices will enjoy the experience.”
On successful completion of the training, the apprentices will be awarded the Bus and Coach Engineering Technician qualification and will then have the opportunity to become a licensed member of IRTEC (The Institute of Road Transport Engineers).