A DARLINGTON firm has won a Government contract to provide free training for people who want to become HGV lorry drivers.

Mainstream Training, which is based in Neasham Road, Darlington, won the multi-million pound contract for the scheme, which starts immediately.

A shortage of HGV drivers has sparked problems in the logistic chain this autumn and winter.

The intensive short "bootcamp" courses are aimed at tackling the skills shortage and supporting up to 11,000 people nationally to get a career in the logistics sector.

The project starts immediately and is open to anyone, including those unemployed for fewer than 12 months, employees in different sectors looking for a career change and self-employed individuals looking to add a further income stream to their trade.

Existing HGV drivers can also benefit from free training to upgrade their licence category and those who have been away from the sector for a while can receive free refresher and professional development courses to help them to return to driving.

Training courses are typically for two to three weeks and not only include driving lessons plus up to two attempts at the driving test, but also any required medical and theory training.

In addition, to ensure that trainees are “road ready” the bootcamps also include workshops on essential practical skills such as safe loading, vehicle safety checks, drivers' hours and pallet truck.

Mark Lucas, training director at Mainstream said, “We have worked closely with employers and listened carefully to what they need. Our Skills Bootcamp includes the skills needed to put trainees straight into the workplace.

"The idea is to provide them with the skills, practical experience and confidence to hit the ground running when they start their new career”.

The project is supported by employers across the country and each trainee is guaranteed an interview for a job.

With HGV driver salaries frequently exceeding £40,000, demand for training places is expected to be high. Nationally, more than 2,000 people have already shown an interest.

The first trainees are expected to be on the road by March 2022.

Rob Coleman, learner engagement lead at Mainstream, said, “This project only launched this week and we have already been inundated with calls from trainees.

"I’m also delighted that enquires from prospective employers have been strong.

"It’s clear that successful trainees will have no difficulty in obtaining a well-paid and fulfilling new career.”

Mainstream has designed its Skills Bootcamp to improve accessibility by offering trainees the opportunity to choose between either attending on a block week basis or on a past-time basis spread over a number of weeks, enabling them to fit it around existing jobs or responsibilities.

To ensure more people can take their test sooner, the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) says it is also making capacity available for 500 more HGV driving tests a week, which is the equivalent to up to 26,000 more per year.

Any potential trainees and employers wanting to find out more about the HGV Skills Bootcamp can contact Mainstream on 01795 418100 or by emailing skillsbootcamps@recruitandtrain.com.