Driving program tooting its own horn

Young people seeking well-paying jobs in the trades usually think of carpentry, mechanics or welding.

Young people seeking well-paying jobs in the trades usually think of carpentry, mechanics or welding.

“They tend to get all the limelight,” said Ric Bolton — but he wants career seekers to think of professional truck driving as well.

Bolton is the chairman of Red Deer College’s 12-week Professional Driver Certificate program.

He said his graduates have had a 90 to 95 per cent employment rate and can earn from $40,000 to $50,000 a year for pickup and delivery, or $50,000 to $70,000 for long-haul trucking.

Those facts may surprise some high school students who are considering non-academic careers. But these young people are about to become better informed. Information booklets, compiled to raise awareness of various transport industry career paths for young people, will soon be distributed to area high schools and career counsellors, said Bolton.

The booklets were conceived by representatives from the Transportation Training and Development Association, Alberta Motor Transport Association, Canadian Transportation Human Resource Council and Red Deer College, who met in Red Deer on Tuesday to discuss how impressions can be changed about working in the transportation industry.

Bolton said some people mistakenly believe little skill is required for truck driving and that it’s a job with limited advancement opportunities. “We’re fighting that stigma,” he added, as good drivers are actually highly sought after and can take a number of career paths.

For instance, pickup and delivery drivers can eventually become driver supervisors, trainers, fleet managers or operations managers, said Bolton. Many can also stream into the mechanical end of the job.

A pilot professional driver program has been offered at the college for the past two years, and Bolton said the course is now ready to be expanded and offered in partnership with private driving schools. The private-sector schools will instruct students and offer hands-on learning opportunities, while the college will take care of the testing and certification part.

“When you think about it, every item on grocery store shelves comes from a truck,” said Bolton, who believes the demand for truck drivers will remain reasonably high, even in a recession.