Skills Challenge celebrates a decade

The IRTE Skills Challenge will be marking its 10th year in 2020. routeone finds out what the industry can look forward to seeing then

The IRTE Skills Challenge has firmly cemented itself as an essential date in operator’s diaries.

Over the years the Challenge has gained support and high praise from the Confederation of Passenger Transport, Traffic Commissioners, DVSA and industry-leading suppliers.

Next year the Skills Challenge is set to return stronger than ever as it gears up to celebrate its 10th year in recognising and awarding the coach and bus industry’s engineers.

The beginning

Turning 10 next year, it came about as the Institute of Road Transport Engineers (IRTE), the professional sector of the Society of Operations Engineers (SOE), was looking for an opportunity to promote and acknowledge the excellent work that goes on in the coach and bus industry.

“The engineers tend to fall into the industry and then just get on with their jobs,” Daniel Moir, Chief Operating Officer of Society of Operations Engineers, says. “But what we wanted to do was give them opportunity to showcase best practice and recognise the shining lights of the sector.”

Every year in June, S&B Automotive Academy in Bristol plays host to the Challenge.

S&B Automotive has been a supporter of the Skills Challenge since the very beginning and has seen it flourish into a key industry event.

Richard Belton, Training and Education Director at S&B Automotive, says: “We were approached with just six weeks’ notice by IRTE to see if we could host it – we said yes straight away.”

New for 2020

Testing covers three areas mechanical, electrical, body. There is an aim for next year to introduce new tests which look at alternative fuels.

When taking part, not only do engineers gain a title, but there are also prizes up for grabs for all winners and runners up, provided by supporter of the IRTE, Teng Tools. Prizes are awarded in 13 categories.

Next year, however, IRTE Skills Challenge would like to launch at least one new category. It will be similar to the current Masters category the Challenge currently has for the qualified technicians, but this one will be for apprentices.

2020 will also see additional prizes, in the form of an experience day, be given for winning qualified and apprentices teams as well as the Masters winner and mecelec winner.

The future

The IRTE Skills Challenge has come a long way since its inception in 2010 and its partners and supporters are looking forward to the Challenge’s bright future.

“Number 10 will definitely be bigger than the previous ones and I don’t see why it can’t continue to grow, progress and evolve in the same way,” says Richard.

Daniel adds: “We are incredibly proud of the skills challenge, what it does and what it represents.

“It allows us to work very closely with market leaders in the industry and everyone who supports it should all be incredibly proud of themselves; they are leading examples of compliance and safety in the industry.

“We’re delighted that we made this milestone and we look forward to the next 10 and beyond.”

Entry for the 10th anniversary edition of the Challenge will be open from January 2020 but, if you wish to register your interest now, email

Q&A: David Leslie (Lothian)

Skills Challenge Masters winner

How did it feel to win the Skills Challenge Masters award?

It felt fantastic to win. It made all my years of hard work and study worthwhile. 

Would you recommend the Skills Challenge to others?  

I would definitely recommend it. It’s a great way to test your skills and challenge yourself.

Why do you think the Challenge is important to the industry?

It’s important for the industry to showcase what goes on behind the scenes of the transport industry and the people that keep the wheels turning.

What do you like about the Skills Challenge? 

That it shows off the best the industry has to offer.

What would you like to see in the future from the Skills Challenge?

I would like to see it continuing the same as they are doing a great job.