Craig Perkins boasts over 16 years of experience in the engineering industry. His career, which commenced as an Engineering Apprentice at National Express, has provided him with valuable first-hand insights into the industry from both apprentice and managerial perspectives.


What are a few benefits of apprentices?

At National Express we feel there is a huge benefit to taking on apprentices. Apart from the obvious things like extra labour in the workplace, it’s a productive and effective way to grow talent and develop a motivated, skilled and qualified workforce for the future. Apprenticeships are a great way of introducing someone to your business and the way you operate. We can teach apprentices the way we work and guide them to become someone who understands procedures and policies while integrating them into the team before they take on a future role within the business.  

What are the main reasons you took on an apprentice?

As an industry we are all struggling to recruit. There has been a large skills gap that needs filling and apprentices will be the people to fill that gap without doubt!  

How do you think an apprentice could contribute to your business/work?

Apprentices can and will help your business grow. You are training your workers of the future to your high standards and can see from early on where their strengths are and where there are areas for improvement. You can enhance their strengths and build on the areas for improvement with bespoke mentoring and training where required.  

Do you have any concerns about taking on an apprentice? Did they come true?

The taboo with apprentices most of the time is that they are young, immature and have no work experience, so by this they could be hard to manage and motivate. This is far from the truth – at National Express we have apprentices of all ages and backgrounds. They come in with enthusiasm and an eagerness to learn and listen.  

Do you have any specific projects or tasks in mind for an apprentice to work on? 

National Express has various projects that we like our apprentices to do throughout their time with us. We recently had a group of apprentices film and edit a video which we’ve used for National Apprenticeship Week and will be using in our next recruitment campaign. This is a little bit different from their day-to-day engineering tasks but it is good to get them involved and let them get their creative side out to design something where they can see a finished product that is put out for the public to see!  

How does your apprentice fit into your existing team structure?

I was an apprentice in Coventry and I have made friends for life. It’s something we see all the time with our apprentices, which says to me that we are doing the right things in the garage to make apprentices feel welcome, included and wanted as part of a bigger team.  

How has the apprentices helped you improve your productivity or efficiency?

With apprentices comes extra help. We know they can have a positive impact on the service we deliver, whether it be them changing tyres to doing routine maintenance. Apprentices play a massive part in helping our garages maintain their fleet and make service!  

How does the day to day affect the apprentices?

For the apprentice themselves they are at the forefront of learning. National Express is an accredited Real Living Wage employer so our apprentices are paid a very good wage to gain valuable skills and qualifications while learning on the job. This is a huge benefit for anyone. At the end of an apprenticeship, they can walk away with savings (and experience) rather than debt.  

What skills and experience do you look for in an apprentice?

For me, attitude is key. We want an apprentice who is willing to learn and get stuck in. It doesn’t matter if they have never used tools before – it’s the reason we take them on - to learn. As long as they have the right attitude and want to learn and better themselves then we can't ask for no more.  

What kind of training and development opportunities can you offer an apprentice?

We offer first-hand experience and learning in how PSVs work and operate. National Express is at the forefront of our industry and keen to develop skills for the future. We operate electric, diesel and hydrogen powered vehicles, so learning the new technologies will help them further in their career as other fuels take the place of diesel-powered vehicles.

How do you see the apprenticeship helping the apprentice’s career development?

Being an apprentice gives you a good grounding with your career. Most craftsmen in our industry have been apprentices at one point so as an apprentice you can learn from and look up to your peers knowing they have been where you are now. Their experience and guidance will not only help in work but also in life too.

What are the costs associated with taking on an apprentice?

At National Express we believe the cost of an apprentice is nothing compared to what we get in return. The investment means that at the end of the apprenticeship we have qualified, competent engineers who will help our business thrive into the future!  

How do you think the benefits of having an apprentice will outweigh the costs? 

The help in labour is a massive benefit. We have over 50 engineering apprentices now which really helps us maintain the fleet. If we didn't have that support, we would be paying contractors and that can have a massive effect on costs! Also, when the apprentices do qualify, we will have members of staff ready to fill vacant positions that again we would otherwise fill with contractors. 

What advice for apprentice?  

Go for it and give it your all. Be a sponge and take as much in as you can, learn from those who have years of experience and respect their time and effort. You will get out as much as you put in. Being an apprentice gives you skills for life. Those skills put you in a brilliant position to work your way up in a business, if you may choose. Being an apprentice opens many doors, you just have to pick which one you will walk through!  

Is there anything else you would like to add about the benefits of taking on an apprentice?

Apprentices are the way forward; they are the future of the industry and add great value to a business while you support them to develop their skills and experience for a better future.