Bus manufacturer Wrightbus is to create up to 300 permanent jobs after winning a string of orders from the UK and Ireland.
The Co Antrim company will also convert 120 existing temporary jobs into permanent positions as it looks to ramp up production at its Ballymena headquarters.
The firm, which was bought out of administration by green entrepreneur Jo Bamford in October 2019, had just 56 members of staff when he took over.
But after a period of growth driven by the development of the world’s first hydrogen double decker bus, and an electric double decker bus – the firm is on track to have 930 permanent employees once the new positions have been filled.
Our order book is looking very healthy, with our zero emission buses in high demand, and we have multiple conversations ongoing with a number of bus operators from across the UK and Ireland
Neil Collins, Wrightbus
Wrightbus hopes the job roles, which will include skilled, semi-skilled, general operators and support staff, will all be filled in 2022.
“It’s a fantastic success story, and not one many people would have imagined just a few short years ago,” said Wrightbus managing director Neil Collins.
“In the last two years, the company has not only been bought back from the brink, but has been reinvigorated and has seen a period of phenomenal growth.
“We’ve launched the world’s first hydrogen double decker, we’ve launched the fastest-charging double deck electric bus on the market and we’re now the UK’s only bus builder with both a hydrogen and electric product on the market.
“Our order book is looking very healthy, with our zero emission buses in high demand, and we have multiple conversations ongoing with a number of bus operators from across the UK and Ireland.”
Mr Bamford said: “The last two years have not been easy. We’ve not only had to pull the company back from administration, but we’ve also had to get through unprecedented times due to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Introducing two new world-leading products in the Hydroliner and the Electroliner and being able to bring the workforce up from just 56 people to more than 900 in those two short years is incredibly satisfying and shows the marked determination that we all have to make sure this business is a world-leading success.
“We’re continuing to invest not only in employees, but in the technological advances that will keep our buses at the very pinnacle of the industry.
“I’m proud to say Wrightbus is firmly back in business, creating jobs not just in Northern Ireland but indirectly across the UK – and this is only the start of the recovery.”
Job roles on offer will include coachbuilders, welders, vehicle installation electricians, driveline operatives and factory operatives.
The mayor of Mid and East Antrim, William McCaughey, welcomed the jobs boost.
He said: “The strong growth trajectory and success experienced by Wrightbus over the past two years, despite challenges posed by the global pandemic, is testament to the outstanding resilience and ambition of the business, its leadership and its employees.
“This significant job creation not only brings a major economic boost to Mid and East Antrim and the wider Northern Ireland economy but serves as a ringing endorsement for the borough’s long-established reputation as a hub for advanced manufacturing.”