Business Wales, the Welsh Government’s flagship business support programme, has launched a new pilot scheme in North Wales to drive more diversity in the transport sector, as part of the Welsh Government’s five-point plan to support the public bus sector in Wales.
Business Wales is working in collaboration with the Welsh Government transport department, the Traffic Commissioner for Wales, and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to run the scheme, and is hoping to help operators recruit a more diverse range of drivers over the coming months.
The pilot scheme is set against the backdrop of some telling statistics: more than 9,000 bus and coach drivers in the UK are over the age of 75 and only 2.3 to 2.7 per cent of drivers are female. This is hampering the delivery of services across Wales, with a lack of drivers in place.
With recruitment and staff retention being key issues for transport operators, Business Wales has started working with operators to find new drivers and is helping them to access support with training costs. It is working in partnership with DWP to promote the sector as a career choice and create opportunities for individuals to experience the roles through work experience, with the potential to undertake bespoke industry training. This approach supports both the industry and the individual to know whether the career choice is right for them.
Business Wales will help operators shortlist applicants and invite them to work experience opportunities, and this will open the door for operators to get a closer look at applicants and make them job offers.
In exchange for recruitment and training support, employers will need to commit to attend diversity workshops and agree to make reasonable adjustments to their recruitment policy. The first workshop has already taken place at Llandudno Junction and others are planned during May and June.
The scheme is being piloted in North Wales before being rolled out to Mid Wales then South Wales during the year.
The drive behind the new recruitment scheme arose from a major bus summit in Wrexham in 2017 hosted by Ken Skates, Welsh Government Minister for Economy and Transport. The summit brought together key stakeholders from the sector, including local authorities and bus operators, who identified the need for delivering a comprehensive programme of support to the sector. With major recruitment issues and a lack of diversity in the industry, Business Wales is taking a proactive stance in addressing the issue.
Business Wales Relationship Manager and Lead on the initiative Clive Bernard said:
“It’s really important that the transport sector in Wales makes changes to its culture and recruitment process. There aren’t enough younger drivers and the industry needs to diversify its workforce and bring minority groups, including women into the fold. The transport sector needs to attract new blood and reaching out to a dynamic human resource will help the industry in the short and long-term and that’s why we’re delighted to be lending our support.
“We’ve built a close relationship with transport operators in North Wales, and listened closely to their concerns, and by working with our partners we’re hoping to remove employment barriers and make a positive difference for local communities.”
Traffic Commissioner for Wales Nick Jones, who has a strong record in addressing equality issues said:
“I am grateful to partners in this excellent initiative which has my full support. There is a general shortage of PSV drivers, exacerbated by the fact that the existing profile of PSV drivers does not reflect the population, a feature that needs to be addressed.”
Business Wales, which is funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government, supports the sustainable growth of small and medium-size enterprises across the country by offering access to information, guidance and business support.