Skills shortage! People shortage! Driver shortage! We keep hearing the same thing over and over, everybody has a problem, and even when someone comes up with what seems a viable solution, there is not always a funding for that solution to be rolled out across industry.
We also seem to think that women and youth are going to solve the problems. This is not a realistic expectation. The shortages are now so acute we have to look wider afield, and we should be welcoming immigrants into our industry with open arms.
As well as incentivising refugees, we should be attracting those wanting a career change and those out of work to choose the transport, logistics and supply chain industry.
This can be done in many ways, but first we have to have the systems in place for training for a professional career, professional accreditation and when these systems or courses are in place, we need to have funding available especially for smaller operators to be able to take advantage of them.
We have talked for many years of an apprenticeship scheme and many other projects, such as the Women Driving Transport Careers program, the joint venture of Transport Women Australia Limited (TWAL), Wodonga TAFE and Volvo.
But funding for most of these initiatives is very hard to find and not a lot of companies can self-fund training on a large scale.
I hear a lot of talk about not wanting to put on new drivers because if they train them and then they leave – “I have trained him for someone else” – but what if you do not train them and they stay?
The not wanting to put on new drivers because if they train them and then they leave and ‘I have trained him for someone else’ attitude is holding the industry back, even if you have invested in training and they go somewhere else, at least then, we have another trained driver on the road and you have contributed something to the industry.
This training-staff-and-then-they-go-elsewhere does not only occur with drivers, of course, and is a cost of doing business.
We cannot expect just the big companies to be training and then the drivers coming to us. We all must invest in our businesses and as I said if there is some government funding coming our way, well, that would make a huge difference.
But if we take on drivers, whether they be women, youth, from another country as immigrants or refugees, we need to welcome them in, treat them as ordinary people and make sure that they feel a part of everything in the company; make sure they are not penalised in any way by racism, by the fact that they do not always do things the same way, until we teach them what we need.
We need to respect their differences, and if you want to have enough people and drivers within our companies, we have to embrace our differences and ensure that everyone within the company reacts the same way; we must ensure that the entire company is on board to make newcomers to the industry feel welcome and help them learn.
One way to do this is to ensure long-term staff understand that they are contributing something vital when they are teaching these newcomers.
That this is part of their legacy — the direct passing on of their knowledge. We do not give enough credit to the people who have actually passed on knowledge, often on a daily basis and leave behind part of their legacy.
So, encourage our drivers, mechanics, operations people and others to share that knowledge and share it generously. If we recognise what they are doing, we may soon find that we don’t have such serious skill shortages after all.
We also need to spend more time speaking to politicians about what they can do to help us with the funding, how they can connect us to groups within our local community to show a pathway into our industry.
Also, to get involved in school programs, as most schools never introduce the transport, logistics and supply chain industry at career days or at any other point and we rarely appear on the radar for those school leavers.
If the industry interacts with community groups, schools and other projects that offer interaction with new immigrants and refugees, we are more likely to solve the problem of our shortages and this will add substance to those joining our industry.
TWAL has several initiatives for bringing people into our industry, it has a schools program in NSW, the Women Driving Transport Careers program, a new leadership program, and the recently launched, ‘Living the Dream’ initiative; a video and song to encourage others to join this wonderful industry.
The song is being played regularly on Australian Truck Radio and the video can be seen at any of their events and on their social media.
About the author
Jacquelene Brotherton has worked in the transport and logistics industry for over five decades. Her many and varied roles have included livestock, general and refrigerated transport as well as fleet management, training, and compliance. Jacquelene is the Chair of Transport Women Australia Limited.