Opinion

People, diversity and culture are critical to future

covid relief

With the Covid experience slowly dissipating we are gradually getting back to the new normal. Our industry has not slowed down and we are continually being challenged to find greater productivity and efficiency while staying 100 per cent safe.

But as much as our industry has had challenges in the past, the future throws us even more difficulties and opportunities to look at why, where, what and how we go about our business.

Global supply chains are now having a greater influence on our local activities. Other factors such as supply chain sovereignty, the gig economy, climate awareness and work-life balance have risen in importance on how we see our businesses and industry, operating in the future.

If the Covid experience has taught us anything it is the importance of supply chains within our communities and the commitment that is needed from those within our industry to meet the requirements, parameters and demands of our customers.

As our industry gains more recognition and understanding from the broader community so does our requirement to understand the value of our social licence and what will be of value to our customers.

Our industry is, and will be, labour intensive for quite some time yet. People are the hardest resource to manage. It is people that makes our industry work and how those people work is what makes our businesses successful.

Having an environment where all people are working to their own individual potential is an exciting atmosphere. We experience this every day in transport.

And it is wonderful to see the transport industry moving away from the stereotype of a gender dominated workplace. For too long our industry has not understood that greater value is brought to the workplace when there is greater diversity of people within the workplace.

An example of this inclusive perspective is the VTA’s Driver Delivery Program where we have been able to train and place over 200 new people into our industry as drivers. Over 15 per cent of those placements have been women, where there has been an industry average of only 7 per cent. 

A small improvement that could be regarded as too slow but one that we are trying to build upon. 

It must be noted that of the placements to date over the past three years we have not had a single report of accident by the drivers, female or male.

And the VTA has recently launched a new initiative to train and place over 125 women into our industry over the next 18 months. As Victorian Ports and Freight Minister Melissa Horne rightly points out in reflecting on this new program and recent freight industry labour shortages, Covid-19 was the most immediate cause, but the pandemic was the tipping point for industries that have traditionally recruited from only half the workforce. 

For a long time, this approach has hamstrung industries that form the cornerstone of our economy – infrastructure development, construction, freight, logistics and transport. These industries have deprived themselves of the talents of 50 per cent of the working population.

The transport and logistics industry can be very complicated and to those that have not had direct exposure very intimidating a bit like sitting next to a semi at the lights. Building a career in an industry that already looks like it happens by ‘magic’ can be very daunting.  

But our industry does provide career pathways, does reward effort and is hungry for change.

Understanding what is important to the people that are engaged, to ensure that all individuals reach their potential in the workplace is a cornerstone of good management and effective culture.

Our industry has its challenges as do our businesses and the people that work within those businesses. Building greater awareness and acceptance of our industry within the communities that we serve is the challenge. 

The future of our industry is about people, diversity and culture. We sometimes move too slowly but we will always keep moving.

  • Peter Anderson is CEO of the Victorian Transport Association
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