The more I talk to people in the industry, the more I hear concern about what is perceived as a lack of funding for those looking to attend a driver training school for their Class 1 license.
It’s muddy waters out there right now as far as where funding is available. It varies province to province, with a quick Google search showing some schools in B.C. offering tuition-free programs for Class 1 drivers and other searches indicating that “funding may be available” in other provinces. Manitoba Public Insurance, which used to cover tuition for those entering the Entry Level Professional Driver Training Program, put an end to that this past June.
So it’s tough for those wanting to get behind the wheel of a big rig these days. Tuition for a Class 1 driver training course isn’t cheap, either. Prices vary, but you can expect to fork over more than $6,000 for a three week course in Saskatchewan, and longer programs that range from four to eight weeks will cost much more.
The costs of these programs are not the issue. It’s not cheap to run a commercial driver training school with insurance, fuel, staff salaries, and several other standard costs of doing business all adding up. It’s that there’s little to no help to get new students trained for a profession that most believe will face a critical shortage in the coming years.
There are several grant and loan options available for university and college students who qualify – and by qualify, I mean they do not have the funds to pay for tuition on their own – and considering it’s far more expensive, by comparison, to take a Class 1 driver training course, one would think there should be options in this area as well.
I have always been torn when it comes to tuition for education. On one side, you can of course make the argument that someone has to pay for it, and that onus should fall on the person looking to benefit from the service. But being someone who went to university, acquired a degree in English, and came out with tens of thousands of dollars in debt, it’s tough not to question the overall model of how the educational system works.
Student debt has become a major issue for Millennials, who have been riddled with unprecedented student debt, it’s nearly impossible to do the things generations of the past preached to younger folk – put a percentage of your paycheck in savings, don’t waste your money on rent, buy a home, invest in something, etc. How can someone do that when they have to pay off so much in debt?
To keep our economy literally moving, making it easier for people to choose a career that is facing a dire need of workers, there must be a clear path for people to find funding assistance or some kind of grant program to get them behind the wheel.
In addition to that, the industry needs to reach out to the next generations, get to them at the high school level and show them how cool the trucking industry really is.
You can be a driver whose office is the open road with a view that is second to none; you can develop new technologies that improve fuel economy, driver safety, business efficiency, or vehicle performance.
I really don’t think many young people realize what they can do in this industry, and that is the fault of the industry itself.
Get out there and educate.
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