A bus driver’s priority is to be competent and safe, but it is also vital they count money, run on time and re-route when safety signs advise changed conditions.
And that’s just on the road: at the depot, there might be maintenance reports to file or a vehicle manual to memorise, so literacy and numeracy skills are key.
Bus company Metro Tasmania has handed its 450-strong workforce just such a key through the Workplace English Language and Literacy (WELL) Program.
The program offers funding, brokered by the Transport and Logistics Industry Skills Council (TLISC), for training in comprehension and communication skills.
The training complements studies towards Certificate IIIs and IVs in Driving Operations as well as ensuring workers can, more broadly, meet current and future job needs.
Metro’s human resources manager, Craig Anderson, says drivers know they need qualifications for career progression, but some had felt held back by poor language, literacy and numeracy skills.
“We do testing so we know people can read and write before they start with us, so WELL has been aimed at the longer-term, older drivers,” Anderson says.
WELL has been a driving force in developing skills to enable those established drivers “to successfully complete nationally accredited training”, he says.
Anderson has also noticed WELL-educated drivers are making better use of Metro’s Transport Information Management System, a database that, either via keyboard or audio input, logs operational and mechanical issues for resolution.
So WELL has supported vocational training, but also e-learning with OH&S.
Drivers with poor literacy and numeracy had avoided using the system, which meant Metro was missing out on significant information, such as breakdowns.
Moreover, WELL created an opportunity for Metro to keep its workforce up-to-date on health and safety legislative changes through an internet portal.
“So WELL has supported vocational training, but also e-learning with OH&S.”
Anderson says the need for WELL arose out of Metro’s typical driver demographic, many of whom hadn’t completed secondary-level education.
Some felt self-conscious about needing help with words and maths, but for those who took on the program, “I haven’t heard one negative,” Anderson says.
“Most have been extremely positive and complimentary about the support Suzanne Cass, the WELL project officer, has provided. It’s about supporting people, and they really do appreciate it, and the confidence they have gained.
“It is seen as a real positive, as the management trying to help the workforce, and it also helps people reduce their stress dramatically because they’ve got through qualifications or work requirements, which were hanging around their neck.
“With some employees, you can see the weight lifted off their shoulders.”
- Metro Tasmania Pty Ltd, trading as Metro, is a state-owned bus company with a fleet of 217 vehicles
- Metro operates services in Hobart, Launceston and Burnie, and collected nearly 10.2 million fares on 372 routes in 2012
- Its workforce numbers about 450, of whom 30 per cent are female, with an average age in the mid to late 40s
- 44 Metro workers have completed Workplace English Language and Literacy (WELL) Program-funded training to date
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