When I arrived in 2001, I found that there was no coherent training policy. While the company had done plenty of training, particularly around passenger-carrying vehicle (PCV) driving tests, it was very much on an ad hoc basis. I soon realised that we needed to professionalise our training, and in 2004 I recruited a training and development manager. He and I developed a training strategy.
I recognised there were a many areas needing attention, particularly management, supervisory development and skills. We pioneered a foundation degree in business and management within the bus industry – it was the first such degree.
We identified 30 managers who would be key to the business over the next five years, and we put them through an 18-month to two-year foundation degree programme. Our partners were West Nottinghamshire College and Leeds Metropolitan University, although our heads of functions also give presentations as part of the relevant modules.
We also introduced accredited training across the business. For example, something like 400 of our 800 drivers have now completed an NVQ in passenger transport. This year, a further 124 will complete it and another 135 drivers will start it.We’ve also introduced training into other areas, such as catering and cleaning. We’ve really tried to professionalise the whole function.
We’ve also introduced a formal system of performance management reviews, which we’ve cascaded through the business. We’re also developing, on the back of these appraisals, a portfolio of short courses.
Because we’re now hugely involved in the certificate of professional competence (CPC) that drivers have to have in addition to their PCV licence, all of our drivers have to have a minimum of 35 hours off-the-job training every five years. We’ve put about 800 drivers through a customerservice training module this year.
Training-wise, we’re pretty much self-sufficient, and most of the training that we deliver is in-house. We have seconded drivers who deliver most of the professional training. We’ve also got mentors, and IT gurus in every department. Yet while the amount of training has gone up, the cost per head of training has dropped.
We assess everything we do. On the CPC training, for instance, we get a consistent 9.4 out of 10 for relevance to the job, and 9.6 for presentation. The changes in behaviour and culture are tangible, not least in the breaking down of barriers between functions.