New academy to train bus captains

Senior Minister of State for Transport Josephine Teo trying out a bus simulator at the event yesterday. The Government announced plans to ramp up the pool and quality of bus captains under an extensive manpower plan.
Senior Minister of State for Transport Josephine Teo trying out a bus simulator at the event yesterday. The Government announced plans to ramp up the pool and quality of bus captains under an extensive manpower plan. PHOTO: ALICIA CHAN FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Govt announces plans to help boost skills and enhance professionalism of bus industry

An academy for bus captains will be set up in the second half of this year to equip newcomers with foundational skills and to deepen those of existing drivers.

Aimed at raising the professionalism of bus-driving as a career, the courses will complement training provided by individual bus firms.

The centre is the "anchor initiative" of an extensive manpower plan for the bus sector, unveiled by Senior Minister of State for Transport Josephine Teo yesterday, that is focused on attracting and retaining Singaporeans.

Mrs Teo said the Government wants to ramp up the pool of bus captains from 9,200 currently to about 12,000 over the next five years - a 30 per cent increase.

"Our aim is to transform the bus profession so that it is more attractive, skills-intensive and respected. In particular, we will help the Singaporean core of bus professionals enjoy good career development and be ready for future transitions," Mrs Teo said.

The Singapore Bus Academy, located at the Devan Nair Institute for Employment and Employability in Jurong East, will first roll out a five-day compulsory course for all new drivers. It will cover safe driving, customer service and labour-union relations.

The manpower drive will support the industry's transition to a government contracting model in which bus routes will be tendered to operators to run. The operators will, in turn, have to meet higher service reliability standards.

Another key initiative in the planis a faster pathway for non-drivers to become bus captains.

Currently, individuals must hold a Class 3 licence for at least a year before they can apply for the Omnibus Driver's Vocational Licence (ODVL). However, the Land Transport Authority will now look at using a minimum-mileage requirement as a gauge of an applicant's road-worthiness. This was welcomed by bus firms which said this would enable them to cast their recruitment nets wider.

The ODVL will also be portable across the industry, so bus captains who wish to join another operator will not need to re-apply for the licence, a process that can take as long as two months

National Transport Workers' Union executive secretary Melvin Yong said the union is happy with the initiatives, but it will continue to push for a progressive wage model for bus captains, which was not addressed in the manpower plan.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 07, 2016, with the headline 'New academy to train bus captains'. Print Edition | Subscribe