February 10 2021

John McLeister started out as an apprentice at Wrightbus 30 years ago. He’s now Director of Sales and Business Development, and he’s written for CPT about Wrightbus' upcoming apprenticeship opportunities that will help drive the business forward.

At Wrightbus, we’re proud to say out apprentices are playing a key part in driving the business forward. We currently have a team of 12, and this year, we’re taking on a total of 19 across the board - including spray painting, welding, coachbuilding, driveline, engineering and electronics roles.

The benefit to the business is huge. We know that if we’ve trained them, they’re working in exactly the way we need them to - they’ve not picked up any bad habits from elsewhere, so you end up with a workforce that’s bespoke for your business.

They bring new blood, bags of enthusiasm and a fresh approach to problem-solving. And because they’re already up to speed with some of the latest technology thanks to their college studies, they come armed with new skills that can be readily utilised in the business.

We hope to eventually have up to 15 per cent of our workforce on an apprenticeship, via our Engineering Technology Higher Apprenticeship programme and our general Apprenticeship NI scheme. 

Our apprentices receive on the job training, working alongside a highly skilled workforce who often act as mentors, along with a college day release programme to back up what they’re learning.

Apprenticeships offer an alternative way into the workforce for many people. In recent times, there’s been a huge emphasis on university education, and while degrees and higher level qualifications are great, they simply don’t suit everyone. Our apprentices get the best of both worlds - on the job training, with regular theoretical education. We find they’re able to understand the theory better because they’re putting it into practice every day.

Our industry has faced many challenges and changes over the past decade. While at times the bus manufacturing world has been tough, it’s meant that the industry has had to embrace change and really look to innovation to ensure we’re building coaches and buses fit for the 21st century.

That’s why it’s a more exciting time than ever for apprentices to get involved, with hydrogen and electric vehicle technology evolving at breakneck speed. And as an apprentice, they’re really able to be hands-on and contribute to the innovations that are constantly taking place.

By working on such cutting edge technology, they’re not only driving the green economic recovery, but also helping the UK to achieve its zero carbon ambitions.

I’d recommend an apprenticeship to anyone who will listen, and I should know. I joined Wrightbus as a fresh-faced apprentice just over 30 years ago and I’m proud to say that since then, I’ve worked my way up to Director of Sales and Business Development.  

The foundation I received as an apprentice and the relationships I formed - some of which I still hold to this day - were invaluable.

I firmly believe that by joining as an apprentice and having the drive, determination and courage to take the opportunities afforded to me by a progressive company gave me much more of a scenic journey and I can look back proudly of a career filled with opportunity and legacy.