HGV drivers who left the industry are being urged to return and sign up to government-funded refresher courses and earn more money than they did before.

Business consortium Driver Academy Group said the skills bootcamps were “a game-changer” and finally illustrated that lorry drivers were essential and vital workers.

The group, made up of Logistics UK, Manpower and training firm HGVC, said hundreds of spaces were available on the refresher training courses, but they were filling up fast.

Interest in the bootcamps appears to be high, with the National Logistics Academy saying in January that they had got off to a “flying start” with 5,374 expressions of interest in the first couple of weeks.

The 16-week training courses are funded by the department for education, with a target of bringing 11,000 HGV drivers into the industry.

Training providers must show evidence they have links with employers to provide the required work experience and full-time jobs.

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The scheme runs until November 2022 and as well as licence acquisition it covers obtaining a Driver CPC and upskilling to ADR and petrochem tanker driving for returning drivers.

James Clifford, chief executive of HGVC, said: “Finally, HGV drivers are being seen as essential and vital workers and careers into this sector are now being encouraged and funded.

“The Driver Academy Group is leading the way in this ground-breaking scheme and is proud of our commitment to supporting and training individuals into the sector, ensuring they land the very best jobs with some of Britain’s most attractive companies.”

Jason Greaves, Manpower brand leader, said the training opportunity came at a time when working conditions were improving, earnings potential was high and the demand for experienced, reliable drivers was as strong as ever: “We support each learner by understanding their driving aspirations, help with updating, or creating, their CV and preparing for interview, to make it as straightforward as possible to secure that new role,” he said.

“Re-joining the sector is proving highly popular and we look forward to supporting those returners with their career journey.”

Companies looking to upskill existing drivers can apply for government funding of 70% of the scheme’s cost.