BJ Zoobkoff, front, and fellow volunteers at a 2021 Driver Appreciation Days event. Photo submitted.
Fostering relationships within a chosen industry and with other women is wisdom shared by Minister Sawhney. She suggests for women looking for a change of career or to better their circumstances, they talk to women both in their network and outside of it.
“[If women] try to open up their horizons a little bit, open up their world a little bit, to see what else is out there for them,” she said. “And challenge their own inner assumptions that they may not be good enough or that they may not be smart enough to undertake something new.
“Change is always really difficult,” Minister Sawhney continued. “And we tend to make it really scary in our minds and we go down the worst-case scenarios about all the things that could possibly go wrong, but in reality those things never happen and things are always much more smoother than we could imagine.”
For women looking to make a change, commercial transportation is an industry looking for employees.
In October 2021, Trucking HR Canada released a Labour Market Information snapshot stating in the second quarter of 2021, there were more than 18,000 driver vacancies in Canada. The report said while that number is expected to “ease slightly” after 2021, it is still projected there will be an average driver vacancy of 28,000 jobs between 2021 and 2025.
There are a number of initiatives both industry and government are working on to get more people behind the wheel.
The Alberta Government’s Driving Back To Work Grant is one of those initiatives. Unemployed Albertans have access to grant funding to take Mandatory Entry Level (MELT) training to obtain their Class1 license. The grant opened to receive new applicants on Oct. 1, 2021.
Another option, Women Building Futures, has programming for unemployed or under-employed women, including a Class 1 Driver class. The eight-week class is offered in Calgary, Edmonton, Fort McMurray and Lethbridge.
Commercial transportation offers a broad expanse of career opportunities, not just in driving, but in mechanics, administration, management and more, with opportunities to grow in a role, as experienced by Zoobkoff.
After being laid off in 2016, Zoobkoff was beginning to think it was time for a change in field when she got a call from Jason Fisher with XTL Transport.
“As soon as I started at XTL, something told me this was going to be my career, my forever place of employment,” Zoobkoff said. “And here we are five years later and I have gone from dispatching, to human resources and office administrator then human resources and safety admin\manager – which I did for 3.5 years. As the company continued to grow, we split the HR and Safety roles and I have now taken on the role of Safety Management for our Airdrie Terminal.”
Another burgeoning field in commercial transportation is that of Research and Innovation. Mike Harnett is president of Solaris Fatigue Management, a key partner in the AMTA-led Cooperative Truck Platooning System (CTPS) project.
“I always say, this career chose me, I didn’t choose it,” she said.
In her first job after graduating, Harnett focused on injury prevention with a Canadian railway company after a tragic incident with a freight train in which 23 people were killed.
“After an intense investigation, over 300 contributing factors were identified, but the key contributors to this tragic event was a combination of poor work culture and fatigued workers,” Harnett explained. “From there, I was sent to Washington DC and Michigan to learn about these emerging topics called Human Factors and Ergonomics, and leaders in Australia were beginning to share their initial studies in Fatigue Management. They were really in their infancy. I’ve been augmenting my education and learnings ever since.”