April 16th, 2024

Province to help more women into commercial trucking

By ANNA SMITH Local Journalism Initiative on February 21, 2024.

A $2.8-million commitment by the Alberta government aims to help more women become professional drivers, as the province sits on more than 4,000 truck driver job vacancies.--NEWS FILE PHOTO

asmith@medicinehatnews.com

In an effort to bolster the numbers of drivers on the road and bridge a significant gender gap, the province is releasing grants to support women who seek to become professional drivers.

In Alberta, women represent only 2.9 percent of commercial truckers, below the national rate of four per cent. There are currently roughly 4,260 transport truck driver job vacancies.

Pamela Kunz, general manager at Safety Buzz campus, says the main reason behind the shortage is drivers are retiring.

“In turn, it’s not being rebuilt as fast. People are not getting into it as quickly. It is very expensive to insure a new driver right now, with all of the changes that have been made, it can take up to three years for companies’ insurance to go down to cover drivers,” said Kunz, noting it also requires investment from an individual with little guarantee of a job afterward.

To help this, $2.8 million will be provided to Women Building Futures, an organization which aims to provide programming that teaches skills, builds confidence and connects graduates to good jobs as drivers. Women Building Futures is a nonprofit organization that offers programs to help women into careers that pay above a living wage.

“Alberta’s government is dedicated to ensuring women can fully participate in our province’s growing economy,” said Tanya Fir, Minister of Arts, Culture and Status of Women. “Our province is stronger when more women are in the driver’s seat, and through funding like this, we can help women gain meaningful employment and help continue Alberta’s impressive economic momentum.”

In 2022-23 Alberta’s government committed $40 million over four years to provide commercial driver training grants to unemployed and underemployed Albertans; this $2.8-million funding commitment over two years will help Women Building Futures.

“Alberta has a shortage of skilled drivers, which impacts the supply chain and creates inflationary pressures,” said Devin Dreeshen, Minister of Transportation and Economic Corridors. “Fewer than three per cent of Class 1 drivers in Alberta are women, and by providing grants to support organizations like Women Building Futures, we can help people get good-paying jobs and alleviate critical shortages in trucking.”

Kunz noted the tendency is to see more sons than daughters coming through seeking training for professional driving, but feels she the gap is less than it once was, and is proud to add that two of Safety Buzz’s three instructors in the field are women.

“It’s just great to see the province stepping in and helping women on the financial side,” said Kunz. “Beginning a job as a Class 1 driver is difficult because an education itself can be upwards of $11,000 to get your Class 1 licence, and then to be insured by a company is quite expensive.”

It is Kunz’ hope that this support will help see more people pursuing training, and fulfilling some of these vacant positions.

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