With women representing only 7 per cent of the operational team at Cleanaway, the recycling and waste management services business has launched a program that aims to increase female participation across its workforce.
Cleanaway’s Driver Academy for Women was launched in late 2021 to give people outside of the waste management industry an opportunity to start a new career path.
The second group of recruits in Victoria were recently welcomed to Cleanaway’s Brooklyn yard. All cadets in the second Victorian cohort are in the process of becoming officially HR licenced with support from Wodonga TAFE.
“The first day nerves were certainly circling around the room in the morning and by the end of the day, the room was full of energy,” said academy manager Chelsea English. “The group are progressing well through their coursework thanks to our amazing educational partner, Wodonga TAFE. The team was excited to visit our landmark facilities including Victorian Commingled Resource Recovery network, Melbourne Regional Landfill, South East Organics Facility and South East Melbourne Transfer Station.”
Operational roles, including heavy vehicle driving, are the most widely held positions at Cleanaway. Traditionally they’ve been filled by men. Cleanaway says it’s looking to break that mould and create a more diverse and inclusive workplace.
“Our goal is to create a pipeline of great women in our operational teams to drive and become our leaders of the future,” said Cleanaway Solid Waste Services executive general manager Tracey Boyes.
Tailored to women, female-identifying and non-binary people who have never driven a truck before, the Driver Academy for Women provides heavy vehicle training and ongoing support.
Sarah Corvi and Lisa Carberry were among the women who took part in the first round of the Driver Academy in Victoria. They are both now qualified side lift drivers with Cleanaway.
Before joining the Driver Academy, Corvi had worked in administration, delivery driving and warehousing, and was returning to full-time work after several years as a stay-at-home mum. “I was apprehensive about the hours and making sure I had an understanding with my employer that I was first and foremost a mum,” she explained. “Cleanaway blew my expectations out of the water and all of that apprehension and fear disappeared.”
Carberry joined the Driver Academy following a career in customer service in the telecommunications and utilities industries. She admits it was daunting at first to go from driving a car to a truck – but says she’s glad she took the leap.
“The training through TAFE and the support from all the managers has made me feel like I can approach them with any concerns I have. The buddy system is amazing, with lots of on-the-road training. To this day, my buddy still checks in with me to see how I am going,” explained Carberry.
Corvi agreed. “The knowledge given to us, from both the TAFE course and Cleanaway employees from all different parts of the company, was overwhelming. We had amazing support from basically everyone at Cleanaway. It’s been the most inviting team at any company I’ve ever dealt with and feel comfortable and confident in my colleagues to be able to stop and ask for help when I need.”
Driver Academy participants receive support from both experienced Cleanaway employees and accredited training providers, but Boyes added that it doesn’t stop there, “One of the best things about the Driver Academy is that the women create a community, so they have a team to bounce off and support each other as they navigate this new career.”
Cleanaway is continuing to expand the Driver Academy for Women, with programs now being run through its Solid Waste Services business units in Victoria, NSW, Queensland and South Australia. In Victoria, the program has been extended with the addition of a Plant Operator Academy for Women, which provides training in earth moving equipment.
“I’d love to see at least another 50 to 100 women join Cleanaway through our Driver Academy in the next 12 months. Supported by their networks of incredible women, I hope to see them stay and enjoy long careers at Cleanaway,” said Boyes.
“As a driver, you’re first in the chain – without you, we don’t collect the waste that we then turn into products. It’s a critical role, in an industry that is critical today and into the future.”
For graduates Corvi and Carberry, the program has given them a foot in the door to a new career path and they’re excited to see where that leads.
“This is not just something I want to do, but it is a new passion I have. I can see myself not turning back to my old life as an office worker and instead being a heavy vehicle driver for the rest of my working life,” said Carberry.
While Corvi added, “I have a plan of where I want to be in ten years with my driving and how I’m going to get there. I see the bulldozers, tippers and double semis with walking floors at Melbourne Regional Landfill (MRL) and can’t help but think that I could operate them someday, and Cleanaway has made that a possibility with the Driver Academy.”