Comment: Embracing diversity

By: Fiona McDonagh, Te ara ki tua Road to success project co-ordinator, Photography by: Supplied

Te ara ki tua Road to success encourages embracing diversity to help solve drive shortage

The crippling societal result of having a major truck driver shortage

Te ara ki tua Road to success is about promoting an inclusive, diverse, and welcoming industry for newcomers to enter. You only need to look at what has happened in the UK recently—panic buying in the supermarkets and a crippling petrol shortage due to a severe lack of truck drivers estimated to be in the region of 100,000—to realise we need to be doing everything we can to attract the next generation of workers to our industry.

There are lots of hurdles in our way—low unemployment, a closed border, and almost every industry trying to attract the only labour force they have access to—New Zealanders.

Recently, events showed we need to lift our game if we wish to attract a younger and more diverse group of people to the industry. The launch of Ia Ara Aotearoa Transporting New Zealand, the rebranding of what was the Road Transport Forum, caused anxiety for some in our industry who do not like change and/or the use of te reo Maori.

I’m a big believer in the right to hold differing opinions; it’s the very foundation of a democratic society. However, I don’t support taking to social media or sending aggressively worded e-mails to voice those opinions in a hostile, derogatory, and hurtful way.

Does the use of three words in te reo really deserve that much anger and outrage? I wouldn’t have thought so. When the All Blacks perform the haka—all in te reo—do the same individuals who openly slammed our organisation for its name change get up and turn off the TV, refuse to watch the game, and then send angry messages to New Zealand Rugby to tell them to stop being "woke and try-hard"? I don’t think so.

Our Road to success trainees are diverse in age, race, gender, and background, representing modern New Zealand society. We have young Maori, Pasifika, Indian, and Asian trainees who are gaining their Class 2 licences so they can make a career out of truck driving. They see it as a solid, interesting, and stable job, and we need them to feel welcome.

Unless we make the changes needed to really put the mahi behind the korero around being inclusive and diverse, we will start to see trucks parked up in the not too distant future. Without a range of people gaining their licences and entering the industry, we all lose—even those so adamantly opposed to change and inclusion.

I welcome open conversations and the chance to hear others’ views, but in an adult way, and will always maintain the need to ensure the safety of all our trainees. Racism should have no place in this industry.

I want to acknowledge the operators who have welcomed our trainees. They work hard to ensure they feel included in their teams, understand the responsibility they have to make sure their workplaces are safe and inclusive, and are on a positive learning journey as to what our future workforce needs, expects, and deserves. These operators form the majority in our industry, of that there’s no doubt.

However, we must call out those who still hold on to some archaic attitudes. No matter who we are in New Zealand, we all have a place. Our trainees are finding their place with the support of forward-thinking operators and are doing well with their training.

We know they’ll become awesome truck drivers and a credit to their companies. It’s now up to all of us to ensure this is an industry they want to stay and grow in, where tolerance and diversity are at the forefront of what we do, where racism is called out, and people are judged on their character, skill, and ability to do the job.

Hei kona mai Fiona 

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