2010 sees Nic Hake celebrate 21 years working in the bus industry. He joined Devon General in 1989 as a driver, initially based on Exeter city routes. Then, after passing his large vehicle PCV test in 1994, Nic moved onto cover a variety of rosters including rural, express and tendered work.
During this time, Nic also acted as a mentor for new drivers, an aspect of his role he really enjoyed and wanted to develop further. This prompted him to apply to the training school in 2001, where he was readily accepted.
From 2002 onwards Nic has occupied the full time role of Classroom Training Officer, providing inductions for driving and engineering staff, classroom based learning and a variety of training programmes. His role covers everything from first day 'meet and greets' for new starters to attending 'train the trainer' courses so he can instruct staff who are looking to take on training responsibilities within the company.
A combination of ever improving training standards across the industry, and Nic's own desire to provide staff with a comprehensive and well rounded learning experience, means those leaving Nic's classroom are equipped with the skills to cope with a variety of situations in the depot, out on the road and in customer service situations. Nic is very keen to educate staff in the importance of good customer service skills. Our drivers in particular are the public face of our company and he believes in doing everything possible to make sure they are confident in their knowledge and friendly in their approach to our customers.
Nic genuinely enjoys meeting new people and inspiring trainees to do their jobs to the best of their ability. His love of drama is given free reign when it comes to role-playing situations staff may encounter - much to the entertainment of those in the classroom! His sense of fun means that those attending his courses really enjoy their time in the training school and he is held in great affection by staff at all levels.
Nic is passionate about helping staff to understand and appreciate the difficulties experienced by minority groups. This has led to him recently being asked by Stagecoach Group to help develop a Disability Awareness and Social Inclusion course for the drivers' CPC.
Nic also does not believe that his role ends when a staff member steps out of his classroom. He takes a personal interest in their progress within the company, providing ongoing encouragement, help and advice.
Nic's current responsiblities include:
- A first day 'meet and greet induction' for all driving and engineering staff. The day includes presentations introducing both Stagecoach Group and Stagecoach South West, a health and safety induction with a full depot tour and introduction to key members of the management and supervisory teams.
- Familiarisation with common transport industry terminology and examples of hazard perception to help prepare trainees for their PCV test.
- Full training on how to use our ERG ticket machines plus a comprehensive introduction to the various types of tickets available to our customers and how to issue them and a thorough review of our 'Conditions of Carriage'.
- CPC 3 day 'New Driver Training Programme' - a comprehensive customer care course which covers areas including customer service, managing difficult situations and disability awareness and social inclusion training.
- Personally organising mentor drivers for each new driving school trainee, taking time to match personalities so both mentor and trainee can get the most from the relationship.
- Ongoing CPC training for existing driving and engineering staff plus all related administration (organising courses and candidate attendance from all local depots).
- Administration of personnel folders, PCV licence and CRB checks plus measuring and ordering of uniforms for driving staff.
- Development and maintenance of KPI and CPC records plus the creation and maintenance of a uniform database for all South West uniformed personnel.
Nic is justly proud of developing a training programme which not only makes new staff members feel a part of the team but also impresses upon them the importance of their jobs. Two key parts of this are emphasising the importance of good customer service skills through role-play situations and his work in raising awareness of the needs of minority groups, whether these are customers or in peer to peer work relations.
To deepen his understanding, Nic has spent time at the 'West of England school for Young People with Little or No Sight' to listen to the challenges they face when using our services. He has also attended an RMT conference which discussed the experiences of gay, lesbian and transgender minority groups who work within the transport industry. He promotes tolerance and understanding of anyone who may appear or act differently to the perceived society norms.
Nic's work was recognised at Group level when he was asked to contribute to the Disability Awareness and Social Inclusion Course.
In addition, Nic is always on the lookout for courses to attend which will improve his own skills when delivering training to our staff. Those attended include 'Skills for Induction Presentation', 'Driver Recruitment and Selection', 'Equal Opportunities for Driving Instructors' and various 'Train the Trainer' courses.
Whether it is health and safety legislation, traffic regulations, correct ticketing procedures or customer service skills, our staff have to learn and digest a great deal of information. By making the learning experience fun and engaging, Nic holds the attention of his trainees, helping make the retention of information that much easier.
Nic's personality really shines out. His warmth and sense of humour can put even the most nervous new recruitment quickly at ease. He is also keen to maintain a relationship throughout a staff member's career, providing a listening ear and helpful advice way beyond their initial days in the training school.
Nic is passionate about ensuring staff are educated about the many kinds of people they will encounter from day to day, always asking that everyone be treated with tolerance and respect. This passion was recognised when he was asked to contribute to the Group level Disability Awareness and Social Inclusion Course. Dorothy Hermiston, Deputy Training & Development Manager for Stagecoach Group, had this to say about her experience of working with him:
"When we decided to develop a new Disability Awareness and Social Inclusion Course for Drivers' CPC Nic Hake was the first person I thought of.
"Nic's dedication to customer service and his passion for training the drivers to think first about the customers is outstanding. He is always thinking of new ways to make the customers' experience with us better. He has a flair and enthusiasm for Customer Service and he passes this on to the drivers in his own unique way.
"I can't think of anyone who deserves this award more - if only every bus company had a Nic Hake!!"
And it is not just within Stagecoach Nic's skills are recognised. Kelly Warner, Children's Services Transport Officer for Torbay Council, recently attended Nic's three day 'New Driver Training Programme' to deepen her understanding of our policies and procedures. Kelly came away from the course wanting to do it all over again:
"Nic was fantastic and his enthusiasm for his job really shows in his training. It definitely helped to engage the group and motivated everyone to learn. He sets an excellent example for all new Stagecoach employees, getting the right balance of professionalism and friendliness."
This is echoed in feedback from trainees who have attended his courses and consistently give him the highest marks for the course content and structure:
- "Helpful, thought provoking and good preparation for different situations." (Driver D Tibbs)
- "Nic is very professional and puts everyone at their ease. Very enjoyable." (Driver L Blanning)
- "Favourite part of the course - it was good to hear opinions of others and Nic's on subjects. The course probably wouldn't be as much fun/interesting if Nic wasn’t doing it." (Driver GM Gooding)
The final word should go to Colin Kneeshaw, Stagecoach South West's Training Manager and Senior Driving Examiner, who has known and worked with Nic since he first started in 1989:
"Nic manages to be 100% professional in everything he does but still add his own sense of humour which makes learning with him fun. In the training school we see new staff arrive on day one who are nervous and know no one. Within half an hour Nic has put them at their ease, got them talking and relaxed and made them feel welcome to the Stagecoach group - it's a real skill.
"Nic is Nic - totally unique and a pleasure to know."