The livestock transport industry, like many others, is currently suffering from a severe labour shortage but for the truckers, the problem has been pinpointed to a lack of young people looking to step into ageing workforce.
Two of the industry's young stars, James Scott and Brodie Coleman, spoke to attendees of the Young Beef Producers Forum in Roma last week and mentioned the need to get more young people into the livestock transport game as a way of addressing the worker shortage.
Mr Scott told the crowd he could count on two hands the number of young people he knew driving trucks, saying that most of the workforce were closer to the 50 to 60 year age bracket.
"We were talking about the lack of workers in Rocky on Saturday at the Livestock Transporters Association meeting, and we worked out that around 15 or 20 per cent of the livestock trucks at the moment have just been parked in the yard because we can't get staff," he said.
"It's a very older-person dominated industry, I can't even get all my fingers here together and count the amount of young people I know doing it."
Noting that the lifestyle wasn't always appealing to younger people, particularly those looking to start a family, Mr Scott said the association was hoping to show potential employees that a job in trucking was more flexible than it had been back in the day.
"It's a completely different industry to where it was 20 years ago, where it was just a single man's lifestyle and you were hardly home," he told the crowd.
"What we're trying to do these days is make it a lot more flexible, where you're only really for out two or three days and then you're back and you're doing a change over with another driver, and stuff like that.
"It just depends where you are and what you're doing, whether it's feedlot work or out in the paddock stuff like what we do, but we are trying to do things like that to attract more staff."
One of the ways that the Association is hoping to attract younger employees to fill the gap, is by implementing a heavy vehicle apprenticeship program.
"At the moment in the Livestock and Transport Association we're trying to invent an apprenticeship to try and attract more young people," Mr Scott said.
"I'm actually really intrigued to see where it all goes and what it's like in 10 years time, especially with staff numbers and people trying to make their margins better with more technology, so more cattle are going to be moving around for sure."
Speaking to Queensland Country Life, The Livestock and Rural Transporters Association of Queensland president Gerard Johnson said the apprenticeship was a good idea, but there were a couple of kinks that needed to be ironed out.
"There is a push to start the apprenticeship for heavy vehicle drivers and occupations, which is gaining a bit of momentum," he said.
"The biggest hurdle at the moment is the fact that, with heavy vehicle licensing, you're looking at starting your apprenticeship when you're at least 20 and hold an open license, which is probably a drawback.
"I know Aus Roads is currently looking at heavy vehicle licensing on a competency basis, which would probably be a better idea because it needs to happen a bit earlier, not once they've reached their opens first, otherwise you'll lose them before then.
"The Department of Employment, Small Business and Training has in Queensland has approved the establishment of the heavy vehicle apprenticeship, but I think it's just the age thing that's a problem.
"We think it's a good idea and a step in the right direction, because we definitely need some more young people, not just in transport but across all rural industries."
Mr Johnson said the labour shortage had been a long time coming, given the ageing workforce within the industry, but the need to attract younger employees had never been greater.
"In the industry, we've seen these labour shortages coming for a lot of years, the average age of a truck driver is just getting higher and higher and we've looked at other avenues, whether it be getting them from overseas or just trying to encourage younger people into the industry.
"We need to show them that this is a good industry to get involved in and be a part of.
"I think every industry is probably in the same boat as far as labor shortages go, so we just need to find better ways to attract them to our industry."
Another initiative established by the association is the young person in transport award, which both Mr Scott and Mr Coleman have been listed as finalists for in the last two years.
Mr Johnson said both men were great representatives for the industry, evident in their popularity with forum attendees last week.
"James and Brodie have both been nominated for the award over the last couple of years, and both of those lads are very good for the industry.
"It just helps encourage young people and gives them some sort of recognition doing good things in the industry."
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