Get the best out of people with NWEAT

NWEAT tells routeone about the new apprenticeship regulations and how it can help operators invest in training 

Effective staff training is essential to the success of any company, not to mention employee development.

This is something that has always been at the forefront for Northwest Education and Training (NWEAT) Directors Stan Hicklin and Cheryl Denny, who have previously held senior roles in Further Education colleges and been involved with passenger transport, taxi driver training, and disability awareness training on a national scale.

What is NWEAT?

NWEAT has been providing a range of apprenticeships and courses for multiple industry sectors, including passenger transport, since 2013. 

Directors: Stan Hicklin (l), Cheryl Denny and Steve Woods

It works with both employers and jobseekers to create a working partnership, with courses such as Driver CPC and pre-employment training for customer service available.

“We support the passenger transport industry, and the growth of that industry,” says Cheryl.

NWEAT has taken a different approach with its training by building the training from scratch and by working closely with the employer, says Business Development Director, Steve Woods. “It’s how the business has been built; the courses are not just taken-off-the-shelf details.

“One size doesn’t fit all. We change the project to meet the demand because it’s not just about the drivers. We also offer managing courses, qualified training to transport staff, apprenticeships, and bespoke training for large operators and independent family-run businesses,” he adds.

Says Cheryl: “We are, as we like to call it, ‘light on our feet’, and we work with the employer to identify their needs and really get down to what they want from the training. We then put training programmes together for them.”

Choices, choices

The varied courses NWEAT presents cover a broad range of skills, which collectively are essential.

From legal requirements, such as ‘Driver Regulations’ covering current legislation, drivers’ hours and how to record tachographs, to ‘Emergency First Aid at Work’, which teaches important lifesaving skills and everyday advice and guidance regarding first aid.

The courses are not only for those employed. NWEAT prides itself on its ability to enhance the career prospects of people looking for a new job, by training them and taking them into the passenger transport industry.

“The training is not just about people in jobs already, but also the unemployed. For example, we take people from the jobs market and make them economically viable by giving them a career path as driver,” says Cheryl.

Since 2014 NWEAT has worked with over 300 drivers, helping them gain qualifications through the driver apprenticeship, and has helped over 200 people gain employment in passenger transport through its projects with Merseytravel, major bus operators and others.

Customer service

The different courses and apprenticeships not only offer the practical skills needed for a career in the industry, but also as NWEAT describes it, the “softer” skills.

A group of learners working towards their theory test

“If you look at the bus industry, it is very competitive because customers now have a choice of which bus and operator they want to use, so it pays to have good customer service,” says Cheryl.

“You can pass your driving test and get thrown a set of keys and can sit behind a wheel. Now we’ve come along and provided the training for the softer skill sets: The customer service skills, the disability training, health and safety and communication skills.

“Our current project with Merseytravel and its Bus Alliance shows that this type of training is being well received by drivers as well as operators.”

Course funding

Currently most of the courses are government or Jobcentre funded, and there is a charge to the CPC courses.

In the past, employers didn’t have to pay for apprenticeships, but new changes mean they will need start paying for training, and NWEAT are supporting them to ensure the investment is used in the best way.

“Now because of the new levy instructions, if it’s a large company –  wage bill of £3m or more – that organisation will be paying into a levy pot which will then pay for some of this training. If the wage bill is less, then they only pay 10% towards this training,” explains Cheryl.

NWEAT recommends that companies start using the apprenticeship levy and make full use of what they can bring to the company and the industry.

Apprenticeship are not just for young people, they can help with recruitment and support the training for older employees and management. It provides a platform to update the skills already gained.

Says Steve: “There are not many companies delivering apprenticeships and we are one that is involved with the new standards, so we are really keen to raise the standards by delivering the apprenticeships.

“NWEAT is always looking for new ways to use funding, and for people to get licences coming into the sector, because it’s a career – I think once you’re in, you’re always in a job.”

The future

NWEAT has a number of schemes it is currently working on to keep progressing with effective training.

“We’re looking to work with operators to help them with the new apprenticeship levy regulations. We know that a lot of the big operators have registered to deliver the apprenticeship training themselves through their levy, so as an experienced training team with a history of working with the driver apprenticeship, we want to work in partnership with them to support their delivery. We can act as their back office and quality guidance partner.” says Steve.

“We want to support operators, any operators who make levy contributions, or SMEs who want to develop their staff, and help them to invest it in the best possible way – that’s our main goal for the future.”