I have been involved in the transport industry for most of my life. In Central Queensland and across the state, I sat behind the wheel and employed others who did.
While I can drive a truck and enjoy doing so, these days my focus – as the Assistant Minister for Road Safety and Freight Transport in the Australian Government – is on driving public policy to support this vital industry. I want to see a safer, more efficient, more productive and more profitable industry.
More and more Australians are becoming aware of just how vital it is. Covid-19 has exemplified the critical importance of our drivers. One of the challenges we have, that I believe is a great opportunity for our sector, is the challenge in getting young people into the industry.
Supermarket shelves can’t be replenished, new cars delivered to the dealer or export goods taken to port, our product does not get from paddock to plate and so on, without the dedication of truck drivers and those who support them. Including engineers, mechanics and manufacturers.
There is room for more to join this dynamic, growing industry. Not just as a job, but as a rewarding career. I want to see more people sign on as professional drivers, to support our industry and the country’s growing freight challenge.
A skilled workforce and strong training system are essential for Australia’s recovery from Covid-19, our economic future and for critical sectors like road transport.
This is why the Australian Government is investing in measures such as the $1.2 billion Boosting Apprenticeship Commencements wage subsidy, to encourage employers to engage apprentices and trainees. Available until March 2022, the wage subsidy covers 50 per cent of an apprentice or trainee’s gross wages.
Employers and Group Training Organisations can contact an Australian Apprenticeship Support Network provider for information on eligibility and how to apply. The nationally-recognised Certificate II and Certificate III in Driving Operations can both be undertaken via a traineeship across Australia.
In addition, JobTrainer is a $1 billion fund established jointly by the Commonwealth, States and Territories to provide free or low fee training in areas of skill need for job seekers and young people, including school leavers.
The Certificate III in Driving Operations is eligible for JobTrainer funding in most jurisdictions, as prioritised by the State or Territory Government, as is training in related such as supply chain operations and automotive manufacturing and repair.
The Certificate II and Certificate III in Driving Operations are currently being reviewed by the Transport and Logistics Industry Reference Committee. Due to be completed in the coming months, this review is expected to result in updated qualifications becoming available before the end of 2021. The IRC’s work has included exploring more flexible and relevant training pathways to improve professionalism and safety in heavy vehicle driving.
Employers will be familiar with the names of these qualifications and the opportunities they offer to grow their businesses with more staff. For them, the important message is the significant funding on offer from the Australian Government, to help them do so.
I was once an employer in the transport industry in my home state of Queensland and I know the value of this financial support would provide in attracting a younger workforce and helping to train them for the future.
For those thinking of a new career, this could be it. You should jump right in. Safe in the knowledge there is strong Government support for training and equally strong prospects for an enjoyable career in this vital industry for many years to come.
There is more work to be done in this area and I look forward to continuing to hear feedback from those on the frontline. From industry groups, drivers, training organisations and so on, so together we can advance changes to better support the growth in the transport sector.