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Worker Shortage Could Affect Canadian Economy: CME CEO

TORONTO, Ont. - The looming skills crisis in trucking could have a negative impact on the entire country's economy, said Perrin Beatty, president and CEO of Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters associ...

TORONTO, Ont. – The looming skills crisis in trucking could have a negative impact on the entire country’s economy, said Perrin Beatty, president and CEO of Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters association, in his keynote address to the first ever Transport Skills conference recently held in Toronto.

Designed to bring together transportation sector partners from across Canada to learn about the latest recruiting, retention and training approaches and to develop effective strategies for the future, the conference was co-hosted by Human Resources Development Canada and Transport Canada.

Beatty said the dearth of transportation industry workers threatens the standard of living for every Canadian.

“Unless we do something now about our work force, the gap between us and other countries will grow instead of close,” said Beatty. “This is a complex problem but we have to develop a strategy to deal with these demographic trends. Attracting people to the transportation sector must be considered urgent.”

Canada is dealing with increasing retirement and an aging work force and fewer young entrants, explained Beatty. That’s why the industry needs to broaden the sources for recruitment, he said.

“We have great advantages with our immigration policies and the aboriginal sector is the fastest growing segment of the western Canadian population. And we have to be prepared to act on these forces now.”

Beatty also said the transportation sector needs to enhance its retention tactics and begin to look at human resources as an asset and not a cost.

“If employees feel more recognized and more valuable, the company increases its chances for employee loyalty. So companies have to invest in their employees, not just financially but especially in making them feel valued.”

He said the younger generation of workers in particular is attracted to an environment where there is diversity. Representatives from the aviation, rail and marine sectors are facing the same dilemmas as those from the truck and bus industries and all agree that making careers in transportation more glamorous and appealing is key to more successful recruitment, said Beatty.

All sectors have begun to implement strategies that involve apprenticeship and internship training and partnerships with educational institutions.

The trucking industry is no exception, according to Betsy Sharples, manager of carrier relations for the Ontario Trucking Association.

Sharples updated conference delegates on the industry’s efforts to stave off its much-discussed shortage of skilled workers.

The OTA has developed a task force in order to conduct research, participate in panel discussions at high schools, job fairs as well as to develop a Web site and a video series that is distributed to high school guidance counselors.

“The focus of the Career Highways video series is awareness and to show students the contribution of the trucking industry to their day-to-day lives,” said Sharples. There are so many different job functions within the trucking industry and that is what the video series attempts to profile, said Sharples. It is critical that people know the jobs exist, she added.

Guy Normandeau, director general for Camo-Route in Quebec, told delegates the trucking industry in Quebec will soon have a new professional standard measurement tool for drivers that will assess their competencies and provide direction in developing skills created by Camo-Route and the Quebec Trucking Association called Routier@100%.

This program will be available over the Internet and because it is password protected each driver’s proposed training program will be personalized to meet individual needs, he said. Drivers will have access to their own assessment profile and suggested areas for improvement.

Employers will see results from all of their employees together and trainers will have access to everything in order to evaluate individual results and the proposed training program as a whole. It is designed to assess both technical knowledge and essential skills in three areas: organization of work, regulatory compliance and driving.

The Canadian Trucking Human Resources Council has followed this pilot project in Quebec and has suggested the possibility of taking it to the national level, said Normandeau.

Rod Cameron, dean of apprenticeship training and motive power technology, also addressed delegates, telling them how in the late 1990s, Fanshawe College in London, Ont. identified a business opportunity whereby it could begin to separate the training programs for truck and coach technicians and car technicians.

At that time, the trucking industry was growing and trucking companies were experiencing a shortage of skilled technicians.

But when Fanshawe began training truck technicians in the same facility that the heavy equipment technicians used, it became obvious the facility didn’t meet the needs of the truck program.Fanshawe began assembling industry support for a new shop and soon had a new training facility, which has helped to increase the attractiveness of the program, said Cameron.

“The program is a true partnership, a great deal of our success goes back to industry partners who have come through in spades for us, and both the students and the industry benefit from this joint venture,” he said.

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