Attracting youth to the industry

by Mike Millian

I joined this industry in 1990 at the age of 18 and even then, I was an abnormality. Most drivers were nearing or above the age of 40, and attracting youth to the industry was a challenge. What has changed in the last 27 years?

The average age of a truck driver is now nearing 50, as per a 2014 study by the Conference Board of Canada, and even fewer young people are coming into the industry. At the high school level, for the most part, our industry is simply non-existent as far as potential career consideration goes.

For years, we as an industry have laid blame for our inability to attract youth to our industry on almost anyone we could. We blamed guidance counsellors for not promoting us, the government for not declaring us a skilled trade, the media for covering only the negative side of the industry – and on it goes. For the most part, we complained to each other within the industry, however we did not promote ourselves outside of our own circle or find a way to connect with youth. Is that everyone else’s issue, or is it our own?

It is time we quit complaining about our inability to attract youth, come together as an industry and find a way to deal with this problem ourselves.

I recently attended the Truck Training Schools Association of Ontario’s (TTSAO) Striving for Excellence in Training Conference. One of the panels was entitled Rebuilding the image of trucking.

The panel consisted of professionals outside the trucking industry. The purpose was to give attendees the view of our industry from those not directly involved in it. The comments from the panelists need to serve as an eye-opener. Jacquie Latham, a consultant with the Ontario School Counsellors Association, said “Students have no perception of the industry as they have no real knowledge of it.”

That is a sad statement that reflects our inability to promote our industry to them. But having “no perception” is a good thing, as that means the canvas is open for us to get our message out there and promote the opportunities that exist within our industry.

Alyson Truax, Employment Ontario specialist, York Region, indicated that a lot of the people who come to her with knowledge of the industry see nothing but road blocks in front of them, be it age, long periods away from home, long hours, or separation from family.

Alyson and Jacquie also indicated that we as an industry need to be better at promoting ourselves through the channels that people in today’s society will consume and share with their network of friends. It was made apparent that when the industry did contact schools or employment offices, for the most part they still provided brochures and pamphlets. People today, especially youth, simply are not interested.

To attract youth, we were advised to try things like creating a link to a portal on our website to promote the benefits of the industry and its many job opportunities and to ensure it has pictures, videos, and short, interesting stories.

We need to use social media more to attract attention to our companies and our industry. We need to attend career fairs, go to our local schools, promote ourselves to the drivers of tomorrow. We need to change our way of thinking and change the way we operate our businesses. Society and youth are not going to change to suit our needs, so we better change to suit theirs.

Otherwise, we will be left in the rearview mirror.

The Private Motor Truck Council of Canada plans on taking a leading role in this initiative. With the guidance of our Young Leaders Group, we will explore ways to connect with school guidance counsellors, develop a social media marketing plan to target youth, and update and provide links to our website that will promote the industry. We need to start somewhere, and we plan to do our part. If you have ideas to share, please reach out to our office, we will be glad to listen.

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  • One of the largest issues facing companies bring on youth is that in the USA you must be 21 years old in order to cross the border in a commercial vehicle. This forces young people to have another career before coming into trucking. The other issue is that SOME carriers cannot insure someone with no experience, or are under the age of 25. This is only an issue for some carriers but not all. I would encourage the CTA to be a strong voice of the Canadian Trucking industry and lobby the USA government for changes. Once this is in place, insurance companies will follow suit with products for these individuals.