Paving the Way for Women in Trucking
Jun 28, 2022
The STA’s Women Shifting Gears (WSG) program in partnership with the YWCA of Saskatoon just completed its second cohort of students.
The program is designed to help women in our province who experience barriers to employment, enter the transportation industry by providing skills, knowledge, and education, in addition to firsthand exposure to employers in Saskatchewan.
WSG had a diverse selection of students in the second cohort, totalling ten women. The program attracted students right out of High School to those looking for a pivot in their life and/or career. The program also saw SGI become a partner this year. SGI provided ten seats for their online Mandatory Entry-Level Training (MELT) modules. This provided students with a comprehensive dive into the classroom material that Saskatchewan’s MELT program covers.
This partnership with SGI elevated the level of education students would have received in our initial pilot. It also created space for SGI/STA to have important conversations around women in trucking and the data SGI collects from those being issued a class 1A license. Today, SGI now has the capability to show male vs. female licenses in the province—which speaks to the influence WSG is having.
In the last five years, Saskatchewan has experienced an average of 163 new female class 1A drivers into the industry. The Women Shifting Gears program goal would be to see that number increase year-over-year—and a lot will need to be done to accomplish that.
To date, attracting women to the Women Shifting Gears program has not been the challenge. Our application pool in both cohorts has been numerous, however, finding the right fit has proved challenging. A lot of people think they may want to drive a truck for a living, however, that mindset simply does not cut it. Being a professional driver is a career choice. It takes a high level of skill, a high level of comprehension, and a strong ability to adapt to challenges. The industry can be eye-opening if new to it, and the WSG program must continue to find ways to ensure the realities of the industry are being understood by our students.
We recognize there is without a doubt a place for women in trucking. From the Social Issues Research Centre, there are safety benefits to hiring women as professional drivers. The study concluded that women take fewer risks as drivers, while men are more likely to be involved in crashes that occur on curves, in the dark, or while passing other vehicles. Furthermore, women are often easier to train because they are more eager to learn.
Carving out a bigger role for women in trucking is not an easy task though. Trucking needs governments, federally and provincially to ante up the dollars necessary to produce a safe and reliable workforce. Across the country, a four-week program is costing $10,000. Employers are therefore on the hook to make tough decisions, and huge investments that accompany enormous risk just to bring on an inexperienced driver.
This is the challenge Women Shifting Gears has faced in both cohorts. As great as theory is and classroom learning is, this does not meet the needs of employers today. Moving forward, WSG will look to build our partnerships and have conversations on how we can help advance our students to a position where they are employable and ready to train and drive.
Thankfully, lessons learned are an important part of the program evaluation process. We are beginning to see where the program needs to go. This should be a program that inspires women to value their skills, to feel confident in their abilities, and hopefully help them gain meaningful employment. Securing employment is ultimately the end goal for every student who comes through WSG.
We must continue to define what the career path looks like to become a professional driver—especially for new entrants with no prior experience in trucking. I feel strongly that making this clear will help ensure trucking is attracting and hiring the most adept women for the job.
The future is exciting for the program. Continuing to carve out what it looks like will be our challenge, however, maintaining our passion for the industry is what will keep this great program alive.
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