Craig Whittaker (3rd from left) with drivers and instructors

Calderdale MP drives message for bus industry careers

Calderdale MP Craig Whittaker got behind the steering wheel with First Bus this week to find out about bus driving careers and the operator’s progress with recruitment.

He met trainees and recently qualified Halifax drivers at the company’s area training school based at its Huddersfield depot

On his visit Mr Whittaker was eager to discover what it’s like to be in the driver’s cab and take control of a 13-tonne bus.

First Bus instructors created a taster session including a short highway Code test and mini circuit around the driving school with coned areas and a reversing exercise typical of the first driving tuition given to new starters.

Craig Whittaker said: “It was fantastic experience and being at the wheel only for a short time gave me a glimpse into what it means to be a bus driver. It was only a fraction of what the job requires.

“Operators like First Halifax are now making progress in recruitment but there continues to be a shortage of drivers and I would encourage anyone to think about this as a career choice.”

He added: “Bus driving gives someone skills for a lifetime and opportunities to progress. It is  a gateway into other roles.”

Among the drivers he spoke with were Lucy Dawber, who qualified earlier this year and drives the Yellow School Bus service which gives her time to continue volunteering for the Calderdale Lighthouse charity supporting local families.

She said: “I was encouraged by my daughter and I thought, ‘why not’? I just wish I’d done it sooner.”

Mohammed Yaseen, 20, applied last September after working as a financial adviser. “I was looking for something different,” he said. “”I’m enjoying meeting the public.”

Mr Whittaker also chatted with Kevin Hanley, currently undergoing training after his job as the manager of the Mecca Bingo Hall in Halifax finished when it closed down.

He said his experience in customer services and roles in hospitality really suited the driver role. “It fits in with what I enjoy and I’m looking forward to hopefully qualifying soon.”

The hourly pay for existing PCV licence holders at First Halifax is £14.25 with newly qualified drivers on £11.35 for the first six months.

Training a new bus driver takes between 6-8 weeks and includes classroom-based learning alongside on-the-road driving tuition. Candidates need to have held a full driving licence for six months and are allowed to have a maximum of six penalty points.

All First Bus employees receive free bus travel, so new starters do not need worry about the cost of getting to the training school each day. Family members are eligible for free travel after three months.

Details about driving jobs can be found on the First Halifax, Calder Valley and Huddersfield website and clicking on the ‘About us’ section which has a link to a dedicated webpage to apply.