The Covid pandemic saw many taxi drivers quit their jobs as demand for their services plummeted due to the hospitality and leisure industry shutting down and people staying at home.
Many drivers opted to switch to high demand roles with delivery firms.
But now Lancaster has struck up a forward-thinking partnership to help get drivers back into cabs and help businesses bounce back.
Lancaster City Council is working with Lancaster & Morecambe College (LMC), training provider Inspira and other partners to fund free practical help and advice to help drivers start, or restart, their careers as taxi drivers.
The free Taxi Recruitment Course, which is also supported by the Department For Work and Pensions, offers drivers fully funded support with DBS checks, medical, advanced driving test, licence fees and also provides help with CV writing and applications for vacancies.
Coun Colin Hartley, chair of Lancaster City Council’s licensing committee, said: “In recognising there is a national shortage of taxi and private hire drivers and the vital role they play in getting people safely to where they want to be at all hours, we are helping the local taxi trade to recover from the aftermath of the pandemic in recruitment of new drivers to the trade.
“By working in partnership with Inspira to encourage people to take up a career in the industry with both financial help as well as support from our licensing team to guide recruits through the application process, the initiative has started to show signs of being a success and one where everyone genuinely wins.
“People get jobs, the public can travel safely, businesses are busy, it helps to boost the local economy and, crucially, thanks to the expertise of everyone involved, it’s all being done without any compromise to public safety.
”Anyone interested in exploring the benefits of taxi driving as a career is welcome to have an informal chat about what is needed to become a licensed driver and how we can help, is welcome to call our licensing team on 01524 582033 or email [email protected]”
With funding from a central Covid Recovery Fund, Lancaster City Council agreed to pay for training for up to 50 drivers from the area, including Morecambe and Carnforth, to help get them out onto the road.
The council worked with its partners Inspira, LMC and the DWP, to put on recruitment courses with practical advice and support to get drivers into taxi jobs.
One successful course has already been held with more than 30 drivers now on the road to employment.
A second course is being started on Friday, May 20, with the opportunity for more drivers - whether former taxi drivers returning to the trade, or drivers who are new to the business - to receive help.
Inspira works across all sectors in Lancashire and Cumbria and specialises in getting people into employment. Victoria Emmett, Inspira’s Area Operations Manager for Lancashire, said: “Helping people develop the skills they need to secure better employment and working in partnerships to help businesses and organisations fill skill gaps is what we do.
“This is a really exciting initiative to be involved in and it’s already making a positive difference to people’s lives and also to the life of the city.”
Victoria Carter, head of engagement at LMC, said: “We have been running the four-day, Taxi & Private Hire Driving course for over a decade, and this joint initiative with Lancaster City Council, DWP and Inspira has enabled us to reduce the costs and offer more places to local people who wish to enter the sector, or refresh their skills and qualifications.
“The course is designed to support and enhance key skills and behaviours, covering all the legal requirements and runs every month, throughout the year.”
More information can be found on the college website at www.lmc.ac.uk/taxi
Kelvin Ellershaw, partner in Lancaster taxi company 32090-35666 Taxis, which operates 90 cars, said: “This is a fantastic initiative. It will be great if we can get more taxi drivers in Lancaster.
“A shortage of taxi drivers is a nationwide problem. And now people are going back out again they all want to get home at the same time, and they don’t appreciate that they might have to wait because there’s a shortage of drivers. We could give at least 10 people jobs and if this initiative helps find those people that will be brilliant for everyone.”
The free Taxi Recruitment Course, run by Inspira, takes place at The Storey, Meeting House Lane, Lancaster, from 10am-1pm on Friday May 20.
The course is fully funded for DBS checks, medical, advanced driving test, and licence fee. Attendees are also provided with support with CVs and applications for vacancies. Anyone interested in booking is asked to phone 0345 658 8647.
Inspira is a leading employability skills expert, providing free professional careers advice and guidance to help people develop the skills they need to secure better employment.
More than 21,000 people from Cumbria and Lancashire access Inspira’s services each year.
Inspira also works with employers, local economic partnerships, councils and a range of organisations across the north west to deliver comprehensive programmes, solve local skills shortages, invest in young people and help reduce unemployment numbers in targeted areas.