Following previous success, the WA Government will be expanding its Heavy Vehicle Driving Operations training program to the Kimberley and Pilbara in a bid to get more local people into the driver’s seat.
The $3.5 million expansion of the program was funded as part of the 2023-24 State Budget.
Developed in collaboration with industry to address the truck driver shortage, the Australian-first program provides theoretical and practical hands-on truck driver training to train job-ready workers for the transport industry.
The additional investment in the program will support North Regional TAFE to deliver the training to around 350 participants in the Pilbara and Kimberley over a four-year period, providing employment opportunities for local people, including Aboriginal people, living in these regions.
It’s also set to support the economy, including government civil construction projects, by providing a trained, local heavy vehicle workforce, and address the need for heavy vehicle driver training in the Kimberley and Pilbara.
As Western Roads Federation CEO Cam Dumesny explained, “In WA especially, the labour shortage is extreme. When you’re running at a 3 per cent unemployment rate, we’re all competing for a very small pool of available people. The mining industry is about 38,000 people short, so we’re all trying to fight for a small pool of people.
“There is a transport company over here who will be 300 plus short of drivers within the next three months. The mining activity here is still extremely strong and growing – and we’re short in every section, even the removalist companies are trying to get offsiders.”
Transport Minister Rita Saffioti added that the program’s expansions will provide a much-needed boost to the transport industry in the Kimberley and Pilbara.
“With 350 participants expected through the course over the next four years, the McGowan Government is helping to create a pipeline of skilled workers for this essential industry well into the future.”
Run in the metropolitan area from April 2021, and expanded to the South-West and Mid-West over the past two years, the Heavy Vehicle Driving Operations program trains new workers and upskills existing workers to combat skills.
Since February 2023, of the 552 participants enrolled at a TAFE college to undertake the Heavy Vehicle Driving Operations program, 282 had achieved either a Heavy Rigid, Heavy Combination or Multi Combination licence.
Around 30 per cent of participants in the course have been women, compared to the overall female representation among truck drivers in Western Australia being less than four per cent.
“We need to find ways of reaching people who aren’t already in our industry and need to look for people who wouldn’t traditionally be looking at transport as a career. We’re also reaching out to migrants and refugees, early release prisoners and defence veterans,” added Dumesny.
“In the Kimberley in particular, because they’ve had massive flooding with flood damage at Fitzroy Crossing, a lot of communities up there need to continue to be supported by transport. Involving locals in the transport industry is a good way to start.
“By doing training in regional areas and tying it in with civil construction companies, we can put people in jobs where they can help build their own communities.”
For more information on the initiative, click here.