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Shaping the future of transport

Where will the transportation industry find the skilled workers it requires?

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2014-07-01

The International Transport Forum Summit, an annual event run by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, was held in late May this year in Leipzig, Germany, and centered on the theme of ‘Transport for a Changing World’.

This strategic think tank for transport policy, which brings together some 54 member countries and features an annual summit of ministers, featured a panel discussion on shaping the future of transportation.

The Honourable Lisa Raitt, Canada’s Minister of Transport, was a guest on the panel along with Susan Kurland, the Assistant Secretary for Aviation and International Affairs of the US Department of Transportation, Cindy Miller, CEO Europe, with UPS, Eduardo Chagas, general secretary, European Transport Workers Federation, Jean Pierre Loubinoux, Director General of International Union of Railways, and Daniel Azema, Directeur de Cabinet of the Secretary General of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

Minister Raitt said that the federal government in Canada is increasingly focused on making sure people have the right skills that sectors like transportation require.

“We have a small population, and we have a skills shortage and gap. From the government’s point of view we have tried to educate kids, moms and dads about the jobs available in the future. Canada leads the OECD in the number of students graduating from tertiary education. We determined industry is not doing as much training as they should be. We set up a Job Grant program for employers to be able to bring in an apprentice. The main concern of employers is training someone who will then leave.

There are two specific pools of candidates that are untapped: First Nations groups and women. We really need to make sure we offer them skills and training,” she said.

Creating a diverse workforce in transport is very difficult, she added.

“Most of the time when I walk in to a room to discuss what is going on in policy it’s to a room full of men. It’s not a diverse cut of what Canada looks like. We have to work better to ensure we get that diversity-with diversity you get more innovation and more productivity, we believe. That would help us have a competitive transportation workplace,” said the Minister.

In the US, transportation paints a similar picture. Said the DOT’s Susan Kurland:

“Of the 11 million jobs transportation accounts for in the US, and 8.7% of civilian workers, studies are indicating that 50 % of this transportation workforce will be eligible to retire in the next ten years. That is double the retirement rate of the nation’s entire workforce. Some of the initiatives we’re planning under the Grow America Act are to create jobs and strengthen the transportation workforce. Under this proposed bill there are USD $245 million dollars in workforce development grants and three areas of focus: strengthen collaboration between transportation agencies, employers and workforce programs, promote the use of registered apprenticeship and job programs, and work to create an incentive grant program for the states,” said Kurland.

Every billion dollars spent in public infrastructure creates 13,000 jobs, Kurland noted. “With the help of our Canadian colleagues, we have launched a Women in Transportation task force. It is so important not just to have governmental directives but have it be a top-down initiative,” Kurland said.

“Since the opening of the markets we have unfortunately raced to the bottom in terms of labour costs. This has kept people away from the transport professions,” said Eduardo Chagas, general secretary, European Transport Workers Federation.

UPS’ culture of promotion from within has helped the company on the retention side, said European CEO Cindy Miller.

“I started as a package car driver over 25 years ago. Here in Germany over 80% of our people in management started with a front line position. That’s part of the secret we’ve had for 107 years. I see that becoming that much more a part of our unique culture that seems to work well,” she said.

UPS spends roughly 500 million a year on training, 25% going specifically to safety training, the rest on other types of skills, advancements and technologies, said Miller, and “I can’t even begin to tell you how important all of that is from an attraction and retention perspective to future employees,” she said.

“The key that really has to be pushed is to ask how much businesses invest in training. It says a lot about who businesses are and what they believe,” she said.

While the apprenticeship concept is great for attracting new talent, “to be honest transport is not sexy but the education system needs to do a better job. We carry 2% of global GDP-if you were going to get something somewhere, more than likely we had something to do with it. We need to really blend and share the message with folks at an early age that there are some amazing careers in transportation,” she said.

When transportation companies get people in the door, next, the key is to figure out how to make the place attractive to advancement.

The rail industry has evolved tremendously, and Jean Pierre Loubinoux, Director General of the International Union of Railways, said its complexity presents a challenge to advancing personnel.

“I think every country is facing the generation gap: in the second part of the 20th century the rail industry was not very sexy. In the 21st century it has become a complex industry with lots of technology. We need to attract more people. We have a big challenge in the transfer of knowledge and also to attract a new generation,” he said.

Part of the union’s recruiting strategy is to offer three levels of professional training, management skills, and academic research, including launching a new rail MBA in its regional training centres and global workshops.

Attracting new personnel to aviation is less a gender issue than an overall general problem of many jobs being limited through licensing, said the ICAO’s Daniel Azema.

“It’s very comprehensive and complex. The costs of education play a big role-there is also a difficulty when it comes to training. Plus governments in many countries gave up their vocational training centres, and for pilot training many aspects have been privatized,” he said.

“Only in North America do we have pilot training capacities matched to the demand for new pilots. We need a new training system for the new generation to make sure that all people interested get a chance. We need new momentum for this industry,” he added.

As a trading nation, Minister Raitt said, there is a significant amount of export and import taking place in Canada, “and there is a lot coming in through our ocean ports,” she said, noting that at the same time there is a need for general labour, there is also the need for training up to the skills required.

“In Canada’s long-haul trucking industry, by 2020 there will be a gap of 25,000 between supply and demand. Drivers don’t want to be away from their homes. Although the salary can be quite good, no one aspires to be a truck driver. We need to move those containers inland-it is a difficulty for us,” she said.

“We see these mass retirements (of transportation workers.) So we’re trying to work more with universities and community college programs. We’ve been focusing on the IT worker or general labour but transport encompasses so much more. We need to be very broad in our approach to getting people into transport and we have to do it early, and make it part of early education and examples,” Kurland said.

It also helps if stakeholders in the transportation industry can do a better job of showing how dynamic it is.

“In shipping we’ve done a project on career path mapping for seafarers,” said Chagas.

“Once you go on board a vessel it doesn’t mean you’ll end up with long white beard and pipe in your mouth. There are plenty of other opportunities available and it’s important to promote them,” he added.

Miller cited an example of how a well-meaning strategy in transportation safety training can actually backfire.

“Everybody is concerned about safety. There are companies out there where safety is part of one’s culture. In 1999 I graduated, left school, and I could get trained and drive the brown UPS vehicle after a 30-day safety training. What happened in 1999 here in Europe was that the categories of licences changed-now when you get a licence you can drive up to 3.5 tonnes, but most of our vehicles are 7.5 tonnes. Well, the training is to get a C1 licence costs 4000 Euros ($5800 CAD). So at the age of 21 I have to come up with 4000 Euros to be able to drive that larger vehicle, and on top of that I have to go to a 140 hour professional driver training course, which costs 2000 Euros ($3000 CAD). So I need to find 6000 Euros just to be eligible to drive for one of these companies in Europe. I’m sure the end goal is safety from a legislative perspective. Why this is important is that in 2008 110,000 people in Germany applied to get a C1 licence. In 2012 it’s down to 70,000. It’s tough to attract people when they don’t know if companies will do that for them, and it may be contributing to the shortages we’re seeing,” Miller added.

In the US, UPS has a complete simulation training school, offering everything from actual driving to tech-based simulation, and is looking to bring that to Europe.

“It would be very beneficial if we worked with some of the members in the EU. How does this stack up against what costs 4000 Euros? Would this be an equivalent? The rest of the industry is struggling with those same conditions,” Miller said.

Minister Raitt noted that without human resources, you’re not going to have any infrastructure that is worth running. “Now we are faced with a new world where people want to connect with their work and feel validated vs. a vision of the past when people worked at the same job for 40 years. My vision for Canada is jobs, growth and long-term prosperity. The work we ask for people to do is to help us create these jobs so families can have an economy. We see in this forum that there is a commonality of issues that are very similar-perhaps you can look at the issues in a different way and come up with a solution that does work in your country that you hadn’t thought of before,” Raitt said.



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