EDMONTON, Alta. – If the trucking industry hopes to attract more youth, it needs to better communicate the employment opportunities that exist and help new entrants manage the financial burden of training.
That was the message from three young ladies participating on a Youth Entering the Workforce panel discussion at the Western Women With Drive virtual event hosted Oct. 29 by Trucking HR Canada and the Alberta Motor Transport Association. Panelists included Chantelle Meloche, a dispatcher with Edmonton, Alta.-based Lipizzan Transport; Nanda Dhaliwal, a student at Athabasca University who also works at CP Rail’s operations center; and 16-year-old high school student Shaelynn Millin.
The youngest of the three, Millin, said she wants to join a company that promotes a diverse workplace.
“Diversity and inclusion are what would help me feel safer in the workplace and I would love to know I’m in a place where I’m comfortable and would be recognized for my achievements,” she said. “Money is great, but it’s the environment that would keep me there.”
Meloche has held numerous transportation jobs, including truck driver, shunt driver, and dispatcher. Her entry into the transportation world was as a laborer and she recalls the skepticism that she faced over her ability to do the job as a woman. When she was introduced to the job, the person responsible for hiring warned her many men couldn’t handle the physical requirements, and questioned whether she’d be able to.
“The only reason I got called was because the male applicant didn’t show up for his interview,” she recalled. “It was because he had no other choice. It just pushed me to show I could do it. I worked so hard – 16-, 18-hour days – and would only complain to myself when I got home.”
Her advice to young women in the workplace is to ask as many questions as possible, to help gain a better understanding of each aspect of transportation and logistics.
“It helped a lot for me to have experienced drivers to mentor me through,” she said.
Dhaliwal was initially planning to pursue a career in healthcare, before discovering opportunities that existed in transportation. She said high school students are rarely told of such opportunities.
“It’s not something they bring up in high school,” she said. She took a job at CMA GGM, a container shipping company, and quickly learned how many different roles are involved in transportation and logistics. “I ended up liking it,” she said.
Dhaliwal began taking transportation-related courses to expand her knowledge.
“You talk about trucking, and there are so many other people who work on that one load with the trucks,” she said. “It’s something I found really interesting and what keeps me in this industry, knowing there are so many options.”
In addition to better educating students about career opportunities in trucking, the industry must also help those interested in pursuing a trucking career to cover the cost of training.
“If you’re 18, you’re not thinking about putting out $8,500 for training. Nobody wants to do that. It’s a huge thing employers should do to recruit young people,” suggested Dhaliwal.
Meloche agreed, noting she was only able to obtain a Class 1 licence because her employer covered the cost.
“Tuition subsidies are huge,” said Dhaliwal. “For me, they’re one of the biggest things that pull me into a company or have me stick around, them investing in me and having development courses. I think it’s huge that they invest in you and take some of these costs off you. It’s one of the biggest things I look for in a company.”
She also said workplace flexibility, such as working from home and encouraging a work-life balance, are also important attributes of an employer, as are employee recognition and reward programs.
Getting your SHIFT together
David Coletto, a founding partner and CEO of Abacus Data, brought some insights to the table on how to tap into the Millennial and Gen-Z workforces. Defined as those born from 1980-2000 and 2000-on, respectively, those two generations now represent half of Canada’s population, Coletto pointed out, and will soon dominate the working age population.
“We’re not kids anymore,” he said, noting all this year the first Millennials have been entering their 40s.
But trucking has been ineffective at attracting these younger employees. The average age of the Canadian truck driver is 55, and only 15% of trucking’s workforce is under the age of 30.
“We are seeing an aging driving population without much renewal,” Coletto pointed out.
While Coletto said these two youngest generations have more in common with those who came before them, than differences, he also acknowledged they were raised differently. They grew up in a time parents and society gave them more attention – the so-called self-esteem movement – and they also grew up using technology. This means their expectations in the workplace are different. They want to feel a sense of purpose, Coletto said, and he outlined five factors (SHIFT) that are at their core.
S – Self-educators, who due to social media are more image-driven and self-conscious than previous generations about their personal brands.
H – Hopeful, but increasingly anxious about their economic and social futures, due to concerns such as climate change, and struggles to afford housing in many markets.
I – Impact and passion, a need to spend their time on something that matters and helping people through their work.
F – Feedback from everybody, and a need for it to be personalized and customized, so they know they are contributing to their company’s success. “We got lots of trophies over our life,” Coletto added.
T – Transparency and control, with transparency being a huge expectation in the era of social media, and access to leaders an expectation in a time when even the U.S. president communicates directly to the public via social media.
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