Business Wales, part of the Welsh Government, has launched a new pilot scheme to help bus operators recruit a more diverse range of drivers.
Through the scheme, Business Wales will help operators shortlist applicants and invite them to work experience opportunities, allowing operators to get a closer look at applicants and make them job offers.
The Department for Work and Pensions will pay for PSV driver training.
In return, operators will need to commit to attend diversity workshops and make reasonable adjustments to their recruitment policy.
The first workshop has already taken place at Llandudno Junction, and others are planned during May and June.
The pilot is taking place in North Wales, and if successful, will be rolled out across Wales.
Business Wales says more than 9,000 coach and bus drivers in the UK are over the age of 75, and only 2.3% to 2.7% are female, which contributes to the lack of drivers.
The drive behind the new recruitment scheme arose from a major bus summit hosted by Welsh Government in Wrexham in 2017.
The summit brought together key stakeholders from the sector, including local authorities and bus operators, who identified the need for delivering a comprehensive programme of support to the sector.
With major recruitment issues and a lack of diversity in the industry, Business Wales is taking a proactive stance in addressing the issue.
Business Wales Relationship Manager and Lead on the initiative Clive Barnard says: “It’s really important that the transport sector in Wales makes changes to its culture and recruitment process.
“There aren’t enough younger drivers and the industry needs to diversify its workforce and bring minority groups, including women, into the fold.
“The transport sector needs to attract new blood and reaching out to a dynamic human resource will help the industry in the short and long-term and that’s why we’re delighted to be lending our support.
“We’ve built a close relationship with transport operators in North Wales, and listened closely to their concerns, and by working with our partners we’re hoping to remove employment barriers and make a positive difference for local communities.”
Economy and Transport Minister Ken Skates says: “I am pleased Business Wales are launching this important pilot which is another key step in the Welsh Government’s commitment in supporting our vital bus services.
“It’s clear there is a gap between the number of female and male bus drivers in the industry and the pilot will look at addressing this issue as well as looking at the need to attract younger drivers and tackle the under-representation of minority groups in the industry.
“This is an important time for the bus industry in Wales and through close collaboration with partners, the pilot will support bus operators to recruit a more diverse range of drivers, tackle the shortage of drivers currently being experienced, and provide vital employment opportunities.”
Traffic Commissioner for Wales Nick Jones, who has a strong record in addressing equality issues, says: “I am grateful to partners in this excellent initiative, which has my full support.
“There is a general shortage of PSV drivers, exacerbated by the fact that the existing profile of PSV drivers does not reflect the population, a feature that needs to be addressed.”