Minister for Pensions launches National Express ‘Open Apprentice’
To mark the start of National Apprenticeship Week, Minister for Pensions Steve Webb MP has today (Monday 9 March) launched a new National Express scheme specifically geared to help people re-enter the world of work.
Steve Webb joined National Express staff and drivers at its Sipson Road depot near Heathrow Airport to launch ‘Open Apprentice’, an initiative designed to recruit people for whom age and extended career breaks can pose a barrier to finding employment.
It is hoped ‘Open Apprentice’ will benefit groups including the over-50s, women returning to work after raising children, long term unemployed and full-time carers getting back into the workforce.
The scheme has been designed by the UK’s largest coach operator in partnership with the Department for Work and Pensions. It follows an increased focus by the department on the value of older workers, which has included the appointment of Dr Ros Altmann CBE as 'Business Champion for Older Workers' to vocalise the government’s support for over-50s in the labour market.
Today, the move by one of the most recognisable brands in the UK to help people at different life stages to stay or get back into paid employment was welcomed by the Minister as a means to creating a more level playing field for jobseekers of all ages.
In particular, the drive by National Express to actively court more older employees to join its workforce is seen as significant and a positive way to address the huge gap left by the millions of people who are out of work before reaching the State Pension Age – a core goal of the government’s Fuller Working Lives agenda.
Minister for Pensions Steve Webb MP said: "It's great to see a British business such as National Express leading the way in creating employment opportunities for people from a whole range of backgrounds and ages.
“This scheme is a significant step towards creating opportunities for young and old alike and I hope other companies follow suit with similar initiatives."
Business Champion for Older Workers Dr Ros Altmann added: "I am so pleased National Express has launched 'Open Apprentice' - in doing so it is proving it values the tremendous contribution of older workers to the labour market. On top of experience, older workers bring so many skills to the table and are a vital part of any healthy business."
National Express UK Coach Managing Director Tom Stables added: “’Open Apprentice’ welcomes applications from people from all walks and stages of life and we're keen to see applications from a whole spectrum of people, from former full-time mums looking for a new challenge to older workers who, though no fault of their own, sometimes struggle after redundancy. It’s famously been said ‘all human life’ is at National Express – it’s true and we place a high value on a diverse workforce because it reflects our broad customer base and we believe our business is strengthened by a wide range of skills and experience. We are really looking forward to welcoming our new apprentices on board.
‘Open Apprentice’ is initially focusing on the recruitment of professional driving apprentices but there are ambitions to extend the scheme to different roles throughout the organisation.
Apprentices will undertake a number of key training elements, including obtaining a PCV licence, gaining a Certificate of Professional Competence and an NVQ Diploma, following the Passenger Carrying Vehicle Driving (Bus and Coach) (England) apprenticeship framework.
On completion of training, during which practical support for implementation will be made available from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) through the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) the apprentice will be appointed to National Express as a professional driver. ‘Open Apprentice’ has however been designed to endow people with transferrable skills, which would support the employee to drive their National Express career in different directions if desired or to progress to become an ‘Advanced Driver’ and ultimately a ‘Master Driver’.
‘Open Apprentice’, compliments National Express’ pledge to double the numbers of young apprentices it has on board under its ‘Youth Promise’. Young apprentices are employed in a variety of positions in the company, including engineering and customer service roles.
The first ‘Open Apprentices’ will be recruited in 2015 and details of how to apply will be announced shortly.