Eddie Stobart has ended its award-winning driver apprenticeship scheme run in association with System Training. The pair won Apprenticeship of the Year in the 2012 MT Awards for their two-year scheme that saw 10 trainees taken on from 200 applicants.

“The apprenticeship was stopped due to the funding available to the age group we needed to target, ie 19 to 21,” said Neale Burdon, Stobart resource and training manager. “While we were running the apprenticeship it became clear that we were receiving a large amount of people looking to become an HGV driver and willing to pay for it.”

Potential recruits must now pay for their training and C+E licence, although the cost is less than if they get their licence independently. Drivers completing the course stand a good chance of getting a job with the company, which runs 2,500 trucks and employs 6,000 people at 50 UK sites.

“They could go to numerous providers to gain their licence, but there was no employment,” said Burdon. “Not only could we offer this [licence acquisition] but we could offer them a job. This also meant we could keep delegated examiner status, which keeps costs down.”

The major benefit of the new approach is that while there is no guarantee of employment, drivers who are not offered a job at the end of the training do not owe Stobart anything and still have a new licence. “Our fees include all the theory and practical tests to get them in the driving seat,” said Burdon.

Stobart is hoping to put about 80 drivers through the programme at its academy in Widnes and will then look to roll it out to another location. It is planning to recruit a minimum of 100 drivers in its next financial year.