Jobseekers across Torbay are being supported to retrain for work as HGC drivers.
Education and training provider Eat That Frog are helping people across South Devon get into work as HGV drivers.
The company has created a unique programme that helps people retrain to work in the haulage industry, which is suffering a shortfall of trained drivers, causing shortages across the retail sector.
Hannah Rendle, Eat That Frog operations manager, said: “We are always looking to best meet the needs of jobseekers and employers and designed this programme in response to the national shortage of HGV drivers.
"Working closely with JobcentrePlus, we’ve created a course that helps local people apply for their provisional HGV licence and study for their theory test.
"The first two courses have been really well received by learners and we look forward to welcoming them back in four weeks for the next steps.”
Hannah said the course helps break down the barriers faced by jobseekers seeking to help out with the HGV driver shortage - by giving them the health and safety and employability knowledge to move forwards, introducing them to local employers to get a feel for the demands of the business and by helping with the cost of licence applications and theory testing.
Eat That Frog also arrange the statutory medical - which in one instance proved to be potentially lifesaving, when a learner on the course was diagnosed with such high blood pressure he was at serious risk of a heart attack.
Hannah said: “Gaining an HGV licence can be a long and expensive process and we’re streamlining that to take people through the first steps.
"On successful completion, their JobcentrePlus work coach can then refer them for the final step, the practical training, but without our help, people wouldn’t be eligible for that training or funding.”
The input from potential employers is a useful component of the course, with Tshepo Legodi, SWISCO’s waste recycling collection manager, joining Torquay learners to talk about career opportunities and what it’s really like to work in the industry.
Tshepo said: “There’s a national shortage of drivers and that’s affecting all sectors of business.
"Companies like SWISCO need to keep the wheels moving to provide vital services for local people and so we’re really supportive of initiatives like this that will help us recruit more qualified team members.”
Learners on the first course have all been impacted by the Covid pandemic, leaving them unemployed and looking to change careers.
Learner Dyana Greenaway says she wanted a new challenge: “I was a beautician for ten years but had to start delivering takeaways during the pandemic.
"I realised I enjoy driving and want a totally different career to what I’d originally planned. I’m up for the idea of longer distance driving and this course is giving me an opportunity I wouldn’t otherwise have.”
Mike Hicks and Andy Stanley were among ten learners who recently attended the Torquay course.
Both men have backgrounds in driving but had been left unemployed after caring for vulnerable family members during the Covid pandemic.
Mike, 60, said: "The course is a life changer – I should have got my HGV licence years ago, but the training is so expensive it never seemed like the right time.
"The support from Eat That Frog will give me a chance to do really useful work at a time in my life when it’s really hard to change jobs.”
Andy, 50, said: “It’s a fantastic opportunity and we’re really lucky to have been given this chance.
"I ran my own removals business for many years and could never take the time to step back to do my HGV training - so being forced to take a break by Covid shows that every cloud has a silver lining.
"The driver crisis could get worse before it gets better, so it’s brilliant that companies like Eat That Frog are around to work with the Job Centre to get people filling the gaps the economy needs.”
Eat That Frog Group offer adult training programmes in a wide range of employment-centred areas - all free of charge to those on low incomes or unwaged; they also provide bespoke education for young people with SEND.
For more information about Eat That Frog, go to https://eatthatfrog.ac.uk
Torbay Weekly Newsletter
Join the newsletter to receive the latest updates in your inbox.