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Roundtable examines career paths

TORONTO, Ont. - Facing a high number of retirements in the coming decade, the trucking industry must target its recruitment efforts towards younger candidates. But success will require rethinking of c...

TORONTO, Ont. – Facing a high number of retirements in the coming decade, the trucking industry must target its recruitment efforts towards younger candidates. But success will require rethinking of current recruitment and retention strategies, a Career Path Roundtable held in Toronto recently was told.

The Roundtable, which included representation from a wide base of industry stakeholders chaired by Kim Richardson, president of KRTS Transportation Specialists, was struck to consider the role of a career path in attracting people to the trucking industry. Transportation Media Research, our research division, was also asked to present the findings from its recently completed Driver Satisfaction Survey to provide insights into driver perceptions about their jobs and the factors that would make them stay or leave an employer.

Carol Simpson, executive director of the Waterloo Wellington Training and Adjustment Board, explained that the first step to attracting young workers is gaining a much better understanding of what youth want from their future careers and coming to grips with the fact that many of those expectations may run counter to current management direction and requirements.

“They have very different values and expectations from the current (working) generation. Any industry looking to attract young people has to meet these expectations or it won’t be able to attract them,” she said.

For example, young people entering the workforce want more flexible work schedules because their social life is important to them. They have also been brought up with the expectation of easy movement from employer to employer and position to position. And they want the opportunity to offer input in their jobs and make changes, expecting regular feedback from their supervisors, she said.

The industry already finds itself at a disadvantage in recruiting younger workers. Statistics Canada data indicates that the proportion of workers under age 35 in the trucking industry is significantly smaller than that of the overall Canadian economy.

Simpson pointed out the industry faces some distinct stereotypes in trying to attract younger workers. Among males there is the perception that when they no longer want to drive a truck, the industry would have nothing else for them to do, while females believe that once they start a family they would have to quit their truck driving job.

“The money sounds good but they’ve seen us work ridiculous hours and they want a life to go with the money. They are going to shy away from industries that don’t offer them that variety and flexibility,” Simpson said. The competition for young talent is only going to get tougher. The overall Canadian labour pool is shrinking as Baby Boomers start to retire, causing increased competition among industries for new employees.

“These kids do their research and educate themselves about the different industries,” said Jayne Gunn, program coordinator for KRTS Transportation Specialists, adding that a career path for the driving profession would do much to boost the attractiveness of the job.

She pointed out that many industries, including retail, manufacturing and fabricating, have distinct career paths for new entrants to follow while trucking does not.

“A career path will help us be perceived as an option at the high school level and right now we are not,” she said. “…We need a career path from a training, recruitment and retention perspective. Research shows that people are not only leaving trucking companies, they are leaving the industry.”

The findings from our own Driver Satisfaction Survey (conducted in partnership with Michelin Canada and the Canadian Trucking Human Resources Council) back up that statement. Almost 40% of company drivers cited “better career opportunities” as a top reason for considering working for another carrier. Almost 30% of owner/operators said likewise. Most respondents (79%) also cited “career path” as an area in which they wanted to receive more training.

This is not the first time a survey of drivers found a strong desire amongst them for a career path. Eighty three per cent of drivers surveyed for an Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute study in the 90s indicated that career advancement was important to them. Two-thirds of the drivers surveyed also said they would be more satisfied with their job if it included a realistic career path while 60% said they would be less likely to quit their job. Yet 54% perceived the opportunities for advancement within their company as poor. Similarly 54% had the same perception about opportunities in the industry as a whole.

Our study didn’t delve into driver perceptions about career opportunities but it did ask them to indicate if their current employer provided career-path-related training. Only 26% said their employer did so – tied with business skills courses at the bottom end of the training offered by employers. Fleet managers responding to our research rated “offering career choices within the company beyond driving” a 3.05 out 5 when asked to indicate how concerned their company was about meeting driver needs in this area.

The Roundtable will meet again in coming months.

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