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All hands on deck

Quebec’s trucking industry is pulling together to solve the looming workforce crisis


MONTREAL, Que. — David Morneau’s voice overflows with enthusiasm as he talks about the concerted effort that is spooling up to attract young blood to the transportation industry. The message? It’s cool and there are oodles of good-paying careers.

The stakes have never been higher. The province could be 6,900 drivers short by 2020, according to a 2013 Conference Board of Canada report. Camo-Route did its own survey this year, with similar findings. “It is a huge amount of drivers, and IT, mechanics…we’re going to have a huge problem,” says Morneau, director of business development, Morneau Eskimo, a division of Groupe Morneau.

Morneau is a fourth-generation member of a trucking family with a large stake in the industry. Committed and energetic, a year ago he accepted an appointment as chairman of the board of the Fondation Pour la Formation en Transport Routier (Foundation for Training in Road Transport) and as president of the Workforce Committee of the Quebec Trucking Association (QTA).

Last summer he said, “My goal is to put every type of training in the transportation industry on the table and have everyone working in concert.” Catching up with him this June, I asked him how the battle was shaping up.

Right off, Morneau mentions the spike in interest in what the Foundation and Workforce Committee had to say at the QTA’s annual general meeting this April. “Five years ago there, maybe 5% of the AGM attendants went to the meeting. This year it was about 50%. People want to know about the evolution of the workforce.”

He then directs me to a Web site called Pas de camion pas de saucisses.com (No trucks, no sausages) at
www.pasdecamions.com. It is part of a QTA marketing campaign, assisted with manpower and financial help from the Foundation and Workforce Committee to raise the profile of the trucking industry among the 15- to 24-year-old crowd.

“We wanted to make (the Web site) fun for the young people. We want to tell them that the trucking industry exists. You have your iPhones, Pepsi, chips because trucks deliver them. There are a lot of jobs in this industry, so why not get involved?” Morneau says by way of explaining the purpose of the Web site.

The marketing campaign goes further, Morneau adds. “We’ve made a lot of publicity on the Web site, social media, bus stops, the Metro (Montreal subway system). It tells the 15- to 24-year-olds what we are doing.”

The goal is to make people realize that they are very dependent on trucks and transport for just about everything, including their cool lifestyles.

The marketing campaign also includes sending brochures to career counsellors around the province to tell them about the transportation industry. Schools must be part of the solution, but some are also part of the problem.

Take the province’s CEGEPs, those schools that bridge high schools and universities. Several of them have transportation progams, but some of the entrance requirements are driving people away, according to Morneau.

The Foundation and Workforce Committee have conveyed their concerns to the Ministry of Education but Morneau realizes that getting the entrance requirements changed will not be easy. “It is a long, long shot. It won’t be done in a year.”

On a much brighter note, Morneau is excited that the Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec (SAAQ) has approved the training of up 300 teens between the ages of 17 and 18 for a special driver training program. “This is a major step in our industry. Everybody is now really involved,” he said.

Optimistic that the new program will fix the little hiccups and bugs in the 40-student pilot program that concluded in 2014, Morneau says, “Now everyone is calling us and the SAAQ, asking ‘When are they coming? We want to have these young people.’”

The Foundation and Workforce Committee gave bursaries to 18 people at this spring’s QTA AGM, and according to Morneau, the attendees were enthusiastic. “They got a standing ovation from the 500 (attendees). People were saying, ‘We are going somewhere.’ I receive e-mails and calls every week from transporters, suppliers, who want to give money for the bursaries. People want to get inside this project.”

Foundation and Workforce Committee funds are also being invested in production of the CEGEP courses that industry people can take to add to their skills. Every type of training is being put on the table, Morneau says. “It is unbelievable. I don’t think that anyone has ever seen that. The transportation industry is really competitive, but we all need drivers. We want to tell other industries that it takes drivers to deliver your products; 2020 and 2025 will be hard if we don’t do anything about it.”


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