Big tick and thumbs up for First’s ‘Skills for Life’ programme

First UK Bus – Britain’s largest bus operator – has gained reaccreditation and a Big Tick Award from the Business in the Community Awards for its ‘Lifelong Learning & Skills for Life’ programme for the second year running.

Working hand in hand with the Unite the Union over the past five years, First has opened 44 Learning Centres around the UK.

The centres, which are manned by Union Learning Representatives and project workers, help First staff members access vocational and non-vocational courses, at times to suit them. 

This in turn means that they are able to develop their skills – particularly around literacy, numeracy and English as a second language – making them better equipped to deal with the day-to-day tasks they encounter as part of their work.

The scheme has seen impressive results.

Since it began, more than 8,000 vocational qualifications have been awarded, and a further 8,000 non-vocational courses have also been delivered. 

In 2007 alone, 1,200 people achieved Level 2 NVQ status, and more than 300 colleagues took part in a short story competition run by the company; an initiative which helped generate a real buzz and interest around reading and writing.

The impact on the business as a whole is clear to see, as Linda Guthrie, Head of Learning and Development, explains:

“When people see that they are valued, and have an opportunity to develop themselves, they become more engaged and motivated and that delivers real, measurable results for the business.  

“Since we began the programme we have seen marked improvements in safety – as colleagues become more compliant with procedures; and similarly we have seen a real increase in passenger numbers, for instance in Leeds and York, where all staff working on First’s FTR service have been trained using the skills for life programme, passengers have noted that the staff have stronger customer service skills.

“And this, in turn, has lead to around 5% of passengers giving up their cars in favour of using the FTR for the daily commute.”

Nicola Shaw, Managing Director, First UK Bus, adds:

“I am pleased that through this programme we have established links with others, for instance DHL and The British Army, with whom we share best practise, and West Nottinghamshire College, our training provider. 

“Working collaboratively like this is the key to success in business, and ultimately it is our employees and our customers who benefit.”

Talking about First’s Skill’s for Life programme back in 2006 – when he judged the Business in the Community ‘Skills for Life’ Award Category – Henry Chandler, Managing Director, Rentokil Initial, said,

“This programme, which is a genuine and innovative partnership between a company and the Trade Unions, is being driven highly effectively throughout a large organisation, overcoming challenges of scale, complexity and a diverse workforce.

“Improved customer satisfaction and retention are just some of the benefits that this solid and sustainable programme is bringing to the business, along with tangible benefits to the learners. An excellent example that will inspire other employers to take up the Skills for Life offer.”

First continues its work with its Skills for Life Programme.

In August 2008 it hosted the third Trade Union Learner Representative (ULR) Conference in Leeds, where numerous awards were presented. 

The new National Learning Agreement was also signed at the conference by both First and Unite the Union.

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