Barnes Coaches starts annual driver scheme
Barnes Coaches of Swindon has kicked off its annual driver apprentice scheme for 2024 in a bid to add six more recruits to the team.
The trainee recruitment drive began in May 2018: “We saw the driver shortage coming,” said Matt Barnes, a Director at Barnes. “We had too many leaving us, not enough coming in and the average age going up. We tried talking to colleges about the training but we got the feeling they were mainly after additional government funding, not creating good drivers.
“So we took on the challenge ourselves. We train six a year, in three batches of two, starting in February. We normally have between five and ten initial applications. The range of people who apply is crazy – everyone from school leavers to people in their 50s who want a change of direction.”
The success of the scheme is shown by the current driving team: “A third of our team have come through our apprenticeship,” said Matt. “Everyone who comes has a car licence so we can get them into a minibus. They learn the whole job, not just to drive. We find out early in the process whether the applicants can manage the challenging aspects, such as early starts and late finishes.”
Matt says that Barnes has long adopted a policy of making the shifts suit the driver as far as possible: “Within reason, we’re very flexible. It’s a jigsaw which fit together to cover all the work.”
The training is managed by Dave Pettitt and the scheme publicised solely through social media each year. Once aboard, trainees join a WhatsApp group of current and previous trainees which helps share information among the peer group of drivers.
Another bonus, says Matt, is that drivers who’ve come through the Barnes apprentice driver scheme have a better accident record.