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January 16 2019
By Michaela Peacock

Michaela writes for routeone and Group Tourism & Travel magazines


The Skills Challenge is back

Think you have the best engineers in the business? This year’s IRTE Skills Challenge is the chance to prove it

It has been described as a “vitally important” competition by Confederation of Passenger Transport Operations Director, Keith McNally and “celebrates the true talent of those who do the inspections, who sort out the electrics, the body work, and the mechanical aspects of our fleets. It recognises and rewards great people and great companies.”

IRTE Skills Challenge, which is now in its ninth year, provides an opportunity and a platform for engineers to test their skills and knowledge against others in the industry around the UK and beyond.


Based at S&B Automotive academy in Bristol, the Skills Challenge is a chance for engineers to showcase their skills in three departments of engineering – electrical, body and mechanical.

What to expect

Last year there were nine mechanical tests including brakes, transmission, tyres, component measuring and lubricants.

The electrical section had eight tests comprising an electric bus, hybrid bus, solder electronics, chassis and test board faults.

The body section had five tests which involved panel fabrication, fibreglass, welding and defect identification.

As well as the practical tests, all sections included a written test.

Explaining why he took part in the Skills Challenge, Michael Taylor, Lothian Buses Workshop Controller, says: “For us, it’s a great way of gauging our ability as a team.

“[Lothian is] recognised as the best bus operator in Scotland, so to come here and show our level of workmanship is very pleasing. It gives us a good idea of how to plan future training schemes, too, and for the team to understand that hard work pays off.”

Upping the ante

IRTE’s 2018 Skills Challenge was a record-breaking year with 32 teams consisting of 92 contestants taking part in the influential competition.

Las year also saw the introduction of a ‘Masters’ category, which welcomed back previous winners to compete in more complex practical and theoretical tests. 

Chief Operating Officer at SOE, Daniel Moir, says: “We upped the ante once again [last year], bringing in more teams and transforming the testing structure in line with industry requirements, especially for those at apprentice level.

“To put on a competition of this size, with so many contributing factors, takes a huge amount of support and guidance from industry. We are now at the point where the status of the Skills Challenge attracts interest from all corners of the industry, and beyond.”

Be the best

Up against engineers from across the country, the Skills Challenge is a perfect opportunity to establish yourself in the industry as the best by taking part “in a battle to prove which operator has the best technicians.”

Not only will you gain a title, but there is also prizes up for grabs, provided by supporter of the IRTE, Teng Tools. Prizes will be awarded in the following categories:

  • Top Scoring Bodywork Apprentice
  • Top Scoring Electrical Apprentice
  • Top Scoring Mechanical Apprentice
  • Outstanding Apprentice Team
  • DVSA Inspection Apprentice Award Winner
  • DVSA Inspection Technician Award Winner
  • Top scoring Electric Driveline Technician
  • Top Scoring Bodywork Technician
  • Top Scoring Electrical Technician
  • Top Scoring Mechanical Technician
  • Outstanding Qualified Team
  • Philip Margrave Memorial Award for Outstanding Achievement
  • Skills Challenge Masters.

The range of prizes on offer from Teng Tools includes socket and spanner sets, rivet guns, screwdrivers, cutting tools and for the top prize; a tool box filed with tools.

Get involved

There are many reasons and benefits to taking part in the IRTE Skills Challenge; getting acknowledged for the hard work done to keep the industry’s vehicles moving, being named the best in the industry, and helping to build confidence.

Top Scoring DVSA Inspection Apprentice and part of the Outstanding Apprentice Team of Arriva UK, Kelsie Dugmore, says: “Taking part in the Skills Challenge has made me more confident at work, and at my job in general.

“It has showed me that I am more capable than I thought, and it has positively influenced how I tackle new challenges. I have recommended it to the apprentices at my work place.”

Individuals wishing to take part should register their interest and confirm your teams by 29 March.

Testing will take place at S&B Automotive Academy in Bristol week commencing 3 June.



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