Freight Rail, Workforce, Certification & Training

Rethinking recruitment in rail freight

Australian Logistics Council CEO Kirk Coningham highlights that government and industry have to work together to attract a diverse, young workforce.

It will not come as news to those involved in freight rail that we need to attract a younger, more diverse talent pool to protect the sustainability of the industry’s workforce. At the same time, we must recognise that this won’t simply happen of its own accord.

There is ample research available that indicates the millennial generation of workers is more mobile and more likely to change jobs and industries than any of their forebears. A 2016 survey undertaken by Gallup noted that 21 per cent of millennials had left their job to do something else within the preceding 12 months – a figure three times higher than that for non-millennials.

More strikingly, the same research reported that six in ten millennials say they are open to new job opportunities outside their current organisation – again, far higher than figures reported for other cohorts.

On the face of it, this should be positive news for the rail transport. However, the fact that younger workers are willing to take a look at other industries will only be of benefit if they like what they see.

Regrettably, the freight transport sector suffers from a continuing perception problem around its ability to welcome female participants to its workforce, as well as those from diverse cultural backgrounds.

This is a considerable barrier to the attraction and retention of younger workers, who make their career choices (at least in part) on an organisation’s commitment to gender equity and diversity.

As well as dealing with diversity issues, the sector’s workforce must also address the fact that the increasing influence of technology across the industry will demand a broader range of skills than may have previously been required.

Although these efforts must be industry-led, there is certainly scope for governments to play a greater role in making certain the transport sector’s workforce is prepared for a changing world.

Many industry participants continue to note that the transport sector has not received appropriate levels of attention when it comes to skills and training support, especially in comparison to the hospitality, retail, and human services sectors.

As part of the National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy, the Commonwealth government has undertaken to develop a new Transport Sector Skills Strategy, in partnership with industry.

In its pre-Budget submission to the federal government, ALC has emphasised that the development of this Strategy must take particular account of workforce shortages being experienced by freight transport operators, and that the Federal Government must prioritise an increase in training opportunities available to those wishing to enter its workforce.

This includes supporting education and awareness campaigns that combat stereotypes about the nature of the industry, and which prioritise the recruitment of new workforce participants from diverse backgrounds.

Attracting a younger more diverse workforce for this industry clearly demands a different approach to engaging potential recruits.

ALC is committed to playing its part by combatting stereotypes about the industry and highlighting the impact technology and innovation are having and aligning these with the skills and ambitions of new workforce participants.

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