The IRTE Skills Challenge is back at the S&B Automotive Academy for testing week in June as the coach and bus sector celebrates the return of one of the industry highlights of the year.
Regular host of the competition since it began over 10 years ago, S&B Automotive is confident that holding the Skills Challenge will give a big boost to an industry that has suffered from the impact of the pandemic.
Many big operators stopped training programmes during COVID-19 due to company policy, but now apprenticeship numbers are creeping back up, and the industry is gaining more confidence to start spending money again according to Richard Belton, Training and Education Director at S&B.
Says Richard: “The Skills Challenge returning is a signal to the industry to say that we are back. As far as the operation is concerned, we have been back for a while, but for the industry it’s good to see some positive news.
“The response from operators has been great; we know how much the operators love coming to this event and how much the competitors like taking part. For many, it is one of the highlights of their year and they want to get back to doing it.”
In an industry sector that was challenged by a lack of new vehicle technicians, the pandemic meant that some big companies were temporarily halting their apprenticeship programmes. That is now slowly changing, although, according to Richard, there remains an element of caution.
“The message we want to send is this: If you’re recruiting to fill positions in two- or three-years’ time, start that process now. Otherwise, it’s going to create a problem further down the line,” he adds.