From Birmingham to Kampala

National Express Group Internal Auditor, Calum Slater, has arrived in Uganda for a three-month secondment as a Project Officer in Kampala, working on Transaid’s Professional Driver Training Uganda – Phase two (PDTU2) programme.

During his time in Kampala, Calum will support a major project, aiming to increase the number of female heavy goods vehicle (HGV) and passenger service vehicle (PSV) drivers on the road, whilst also raising training standards and reviewing the policies and procedures used by the training school.

Transaid’s PDTU2 programme was launched as a follow on to the original Professional Driver Training Uganda (PDTU) programme. The project is an initiative of the GIZ Employment and Skills for Development in Africa (E4D) programme which is funded by the German and Norwegian governments. The initiative is being implemented in partnership by Transaid and local non-governmental organisation Safe Way Right Way on behalf of GIZ E4D.

National Express has been a corporate member of Transaid since 2010, and has been heavily involved with our employee secondment programme – sending several employees to offer expertise as part of Transaid’s road safety projects over the years. In addition to employee placements, National Express also participates in Transaid’s Road Safety Advisory Board, and regularly raises funds for the organisation through fundraising activities.

Calum started at National Express on a graduate scheme in 2018, which saw him in three-month rotations around different teams. During this time he obtained his PSV licence and spent some time gaining practical experience of driving the company’s buses whilst in actual service with passengers onboard. In October 2020, he took a permanent role in the Internal Audit team and has been running audits across the company’s different divisions ever since.

The secondment was presented to Calum, and everyone else who attended a National Express networking event,– which included young people from across the company’s different divisions from various countries including the USA, Germany, Spain and the UK.

The application process involved Calum travelling to Transaid’s London office, to be introduced to and interviewed by the Head of Programmes at Transaid – Sam Clark, and Road Safety Project Manager – Neil Rettie.

Having impressed the Transaid team, the secondment was offered to Calum and he was due to travel to Uganda in 2020 however, due to COVID-19 and the resultant travel constraints, the placement had to be put on hold.

Calum told Transaid: “When I was offered the placement, I was a little nervous, but also quite excited. It was only when the placement was postponed due to COVID-19 that I realised just how much I had been looking forward to it! It’s been a long-two year wait, but I’m so glad that I’m able to travel out there now, it will be so different to anything I have ever done before!”

Calum likes to be pushed out of his comfort zone, and enjoys working with and meeting new people, he said:

“When I heard about the opportunity, I thought it sounded fantastic. First of all, any sort of charity work is a brilliant thing to get involved with, it’s quite literally a once in a lifetime opportunity.

“I don’t know how many people get to go and live and work in another country for three months!

“It just sounds amazing, and the work Transaid does is genuinely helpful.”

Calum will be working at the training school in Mukono, predominantly on the PDTU2 programme, but with some involvement also in Transaid’s COVID-19 screening project, which you can read more about here.

He told Transaid that he feels there will be some crossover with his work at National Express, particularly in relation to safety policies – where he hopes to share best practice. Calum’s experience in auditing will similarly be useful in seeing what can be adapted to suit the needs of the programme. He will also be looking at other areas such as process improvement in general and operations, as well as writing training materials.

Calum is looking forward to getting used to another way of living and working, and explained that as well as working with the team in Uganda to implement more efficient processes, he also hopes to bring some processes home to his role at National Express.

He said: “By the end of my placement, I would like to make sure that any ideas have been discussed and developed as a collective, and I am looking forward to seeing any changes being implemented. Most importantly, the changes need to be long-lasting and sustainable – so that the team in Uganda is comfortable with taking them forward.”

Transaid CEO Caroline Barber said: “National Express’ long-term support for our programmes is vital for increasing awareness around road safety, building practical skills and enhancing the value that we can deliver through our professional driver training programmes.

“We are incredibly grateful to the team for continuing to offer their colleagues the opportunity to be seconded onto one of our road safety projects in sub-Saharan Africa. Not only do those seconded offer a fresh perspective on tackling transport issues, but they also share valuable knowledge and experience, and return to the UK having learnt new skills.”

To follow Calum’s time in Uganda, visit his Instagram.