TORONTO, Ont. – The Ontario trucking industry has finally been recognized as a skilled trade by the province, thanks largely to the creation of the industry’s first apprenticeship program. The program – which has been two years in the making – involves 12 weeks of training with a mentor followed by up to 40 weeks of on-the-job work experience.
During the training period apprentices will learn how to: plan trips and inspect equipment; safely handle and secure cargo; conduct routine vehicle checks; and prepare documentation including bills of lading, border crossing and Customs forms. It’s expected about 1,500 apprentices will go through the program each year. So far nearly 40 carriers have expressed their support for the program.
A valid A/Z licence and a minimum Grade 10 education are required for acceptance into the program.
Chris Bentley, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, made the announcement at the Ontario Trucking Association (OTA) convention in November.
“It’s time we recognize what a contribution you make,” Bentley told delegates at the OTA convention. “Without your efforts how would we ever feed the plants that rely on commercial goods?”
Bentley admitted that government has been slow to recognize the fact truck driving is a highly-skilled profession.
“You’ve recognized the demands of those who transport goods, but government has been a bit behind,” he told OTA delegates. “Finally, government is recognizing the position that professional truck driver is a skilled profession.”
Bentley then hopped in a tractor-trailer and was driven back to his London riding by an OTA Road Knight. OTA president, David Bradley, was quick to praise the Minister for helping get the apprenticeship program off the ground.
“For the first time the government has recognized that a truck driver is a skilled profession, not an unskilled worker,” said Bradley. “This is a big step forward for the industry.”
However, Bentley was quick to point out it was an industry-driven initiative. Training schools, insurance companies and carriers all worked feverishly for nearly two years to bring the program to fruition.
“Nothing but positive things can come forth from this announcement,” said Tom Philips of TST Truckload Express. “This represents an opportunity to attract a new generation to our industry.”
The hope is that with the career of professional driver being recognized as a skilled trade, the career will be more appealing to young people. Earning a Certificate of Apprenticeship will separate the quality, skilled drivers from those who obtained their A/Z licence through a licensing mill.
Lisa Arseneau of Kimberley & Associates Insurance Brokers says the program will also make it easier for fleets to get young drivers insured. While she says it’s a myth that you must be 25 years of age to get insured to drive a truck, she acknowledged young drivers who complete the apprenticeship program will have an easier time getting insured.
“The obstacles of eligibility and age concerns will no longer be huge obstacles,” said Arseneau.
Another key member behind the scenes is Kim Richardson of KRTS Transportation Specialists. He’s confident there will be a noticeable “betterment of the industry” within three to five years, thanks to the program.
“We need to legitimize the profession and this helps us get there,” Richardson said. He added the program has become a reality with no start-up funding from the government.”We never obtained one nickel from the government and we made it happen,” said an exuberant Richardson. “We as an industry did it.”
Some delegates at the OTA session voiced their desire to have the acquisition of the A/Z licence incorporated into the program. It’s an option that hasn’t been ruled out, according to Clark Wilson of Fanshawe College.
A Web site has been set up so people can offer suggestions and voice concerns. It can be viewed at www.drive4apprenticeship.com.
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