Samuel Houlders - Operations Manager - UK Bus
I joined National Express Group in 2010 as a Controller in our Network Control Centre, dealing with on the day operational issues on our Coach network. In 2011, I applied for the National Express UK Bus Graduate Management Trainee scheme and was successful.
During my 18 month training programme, I got to see first-hand how a bus depot was run, including Operations, Engineering and all of the behind the scenes activities that we do to ensure that our customers have a safe and reliable transport service. I also spent time in our industry leading training school where, among other things, I learned how to drive a bus! After getting my licence, I spent a month working as a bus driver, helping the good folk of the West Midlands and Black Country get their Christmas shopping.
Following the successful completion of the graduate scheme, I was given my first bus depot to manage - where I was in charge of approximately 130 staff and 50 vehicles. This may sound like a lot, but it was actually the smallest depot in the company. Whilst it was a learning curve for me, I gained invaluable experience in how to manage people and run high frequency, urban public transport.
I am currently Operations Manager at National Express Coventry, where I have 9 direct reports and am responsible for approximately 350 members of staff. I get a great sense of satisfaction in making sure that our employees feel empowered to give great customer service. I also thoroughly enjoy working in Operations - whilst it may sound cliché, it is certainly very true that no one day is the same.
In addition to my current role, I am also studying for an MBA at Aston Business School. National Express has a good working relationship with Aston University, which is situated in the heart of Birmingham. The course is designed to be flexible around my own work commitments and has allowed me to develop professionally by problem solving with other students from different organisations, industries and countries. National Express has also supported me through my Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) in Passenger Transport and NEBOSH safety training.
I feel that National Express values its graduates extremely highly and as an employer does everything it can to help us succeed. The learning does not stop after the training scheme and there are many opportunities for professional development and qualifications throughout your career. So, if you want a graduate scheme with a leading public transport provider, excellent career prospects and the chance to really unlock your potential then this is the scheme for you!