Skills Challenge previous winners welcome return of competition in 2021

IRTE Skills Challenge

For 10 years the IRTE Skills Challenge had been a regular date in the diary of the coach and bus industry. Technicians and apprentices from all the major bus operators descended on Bristol in June for a contest that would decide the best in the industry.

Now, after a postponed 2020 competition, the Skills Challenge is back for its 10-year anniversary.

Organisers have ensured that if safety restrictions need to be in place when the competition takes place in June, they will be. The awards ceremony, the celebration of all the competitors, will be held in late autumn.

Two previous winners of the competition – Michelle Wolfe from First Bus, and David Leslie from Lothian Buses – have welcomed the return in 2021, and believe that it will provide a fitting reward to the industry after a difficult year.

Ms Wolfe, winner of the Bodywork apprentice award in 2016, says: “I know a couple of apprentices from First Bus who have entered, and they all said the same thing: It really builds your confidence. Going into the competition blind is daunting, but then you realise that it is just what you do on a daily basis, so you’re panicking for no reason. I would definitely recommend it. I’d like to do it again in a few years, when I’ve really built my skills set and I am fully qualified to go in there to compete on the same level.”

Technicians proficient in both the mechanical and electrical tasks can now enter the Masters’ category – an intensive test of a wide range of skills. Mr Leslie knows all about the pressure of this competition having won the Masters’ competition in 2019.

He says: “It was an honour that my company selected me to compete on behalf of Lothian. Winning it was the cherry on top but even to be selected was great for me.

“It is a great learning curve to test yourself in that setting. To go and see really how good you are in that environment is a great thing to do.”

Many competitors talk about how they experience nerves before the Skills Challenge begins. Technicians and apprentices also say that the competition’s inclusiveness is a big factor in putting them at ease.

Ms Wolfe adds: “I’m the kind of person not to put myself under too much pressure. I don’t even know how I got myself into this, but I’m glad I did! Normally, this would not be my thing.

“I wanted to do well so I could go back to my work and tell people that I had won. Then people would start gaining more confidence in me.”

To enter the Skills Challenge, email patrycja.plawna@soe.org.uk