There has been plenty of wringing of hands about the lack of bright young people coming into trucking, but not much has been done. Hats off to NatRoad, who has bitten the bullet and is getting behind a strong initiative designed to kick-start the development of a culture of inclusion for young people in the trucking industry.
The announcement by NatRoad talks about ‘driving’ young people into the Australian trucking industry. Let’s hope we don’t have to drive them, but more entice and attract them into a vibrant, growing industry, one which leads the world in terms of productivity and technical development and one in which they feel they can prosper.
The program in question is the Commonwealth Government’s Youth Jobs PaTH (Prepare Trial-Hire) scheme. The scheme has had success in hospitality and construction and is backed by $760 million in funding from the 2016–17 Federal Budget.
One important factor will be the low risk attached to the scheme on the part of employers. People between the ages of 17 and 24 can train as an intern in a trucking business for up to 12 weeks. If, at the end of that time, the employer likes the look of the youngster and has seen them pick up and develop skills during the internship, they can take them on and receive an incentive of between $6,500 and $12,000. The commitment is to employing them, full, part time or casual for the following six months.
This is a genuine opportunity for the whole trucking industry to do something about an issue we have been complaining about but doing very little to solve. Now is the time to break out the self-imposed ghetto we have kept the industry in and break out to become the kind of vibrant and attractive industry we know it can be.
Simply by bringing in youngsters as interns and speaking to them, learning what they are looking for in a career, we can improve the industry. The process of becoming an attractive career is as much about listening and learning for the employers as it is about the young people learning from them.
It is possible, especially in a trucking industry that can take up your entire life 24/7 for years on end, to develop a bunker mentality. In that bunker the information coming in from outside is limited and it is difficult to keep up with changing times and changing social attitudes among young people.
Yes, the generation coming into the workforce does have a different attitude to work and what they expect from it, than many in the industry have. The fact of the matter is, they do have a different perspective and we need them, desperately. It is up to us – the grumpy older generation that likes to romanticise the good old days, when there were no rules and plenty of hard yakka – to snap out of it.
This is the 21st century and, with an average truck driver age of 53, the current working environment is becoming less and less sustainable every year. There is no time to lose – trucking needs to get its act together and increase the flow of youngsters to freshen the whole game up.
There is little or no choice – demographics are against you. It is important to grab an opportunity like this new initiative being led by NatRoad and bring in some youngsters, get to know them and their like and dislikes.