Training programmes increase

With more female drivers enrolling in training programmes, the industry could tackle its driver shortage problem in the future

Four female students, who are part of the first intake for the Manukau Institute of Technology’s new programme—the NZ Certificate in Commercial Road (Heavy Vehicle Operator) level 3—spoke briefly about the experience and their career hopes for the future at the Women in Road Transport forum held in Auckland in December 2018.

Steve Divers is leading the recruitment drive

They’ve undertaken the training through Skills Update Training and Education group and are due to complete the course next month. All students in this first intake are female, which has highlighted a possible niche student group for future intakes.

The next intake is scheduled to start in late Feb 2019. A similar course at the Southern Institute of Technology, Invercargill also has a high proportion of female students. Steve Divers, the Sector Workforce Employment Programme (SWEP) co-ordinator tasked with finding more drivers says it’s an untapped potential employee pool that many in the industry have not considered.

"Road transport is male-dominated at all levels, but it should consider the possibilities of targeting more women for filling staff shortages."

The SWEP programme is supported by the National Road Carriers Association. "We’re starting to see some results of Steve’s work with more courses," says David Aitken, the CEO of the NRC. "But the industry needs to support them by providing the practical experience for students, whether they are men or women."

A report from Meryn Morrison, the chairperson of Women in Road Transport, on a Women  in Trucking conference held in Dallas, also pointed the way to the future. "The US has the same problem as New Zealand with driver shortages, with the industry utilising more female drivers, who have a lower accident rate than men.

"Women are also half as likely to become part of the annual turnover statistics, leaving one job and going to another within the industry. New Zealand figures are similar," says Meryn, including women driving more kilometres and having less down time during a shift.

Steve reported there are now seven CRT courses available around the country, an increase of two—Manukau and Timaru—over 2017, with more planned for Christchurch, Hawkes Bay, and Hamilton.

The New Zealand Qualifications Authority is in the final phase of signing off course content to be offered through MITO to senior high school students, with support from the industry in a school’s area.

A gateway course will be available for Year 12 students and a three plus two course at Year 13 level, with students spending three days at school and two with a transport company. It is expected the courses will start in February 2019 with coursework eligible for NCEA credits.

The MITO and CRT courses are dependent on support from the industry to provide the practical experience to dovetail into the course theory.

"If the student has a good experience at your company, the chances are they could end up with a permanent job with you," Vaughan Lovelock, co-ordinator of the MIT course, says.

"But please let them complete the course and training first before you hire them full time."
MIT expects to expand to two courses in 2019, doubling its number of students.

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