This transport month we celebrate ladies taking the wheel in our transport division
South Africa is said to have an astonishingly low rate of employed women. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) only 50% of women between the ages of 25 and 54 are employed. With a skills shortage and burgeoning demand for the transportation of goods, the transport industry is well suited to provide a solution for women whose innate attributes could make them well suited for driving trucks.
We sat down with James McKenzie, General Manager Shared Services, Amanda Mathebula, a Professional Truck Driver, and Mike Wilson, Senior Manager Technical Training, to find out how Barloworld Logistics is contributing to changing an industry once synonymous with masculinity.
“As a business, Barloworld Logistics has always invested in developing our own talent and seeing drivers progress through the ranks. We saw a gap in the search for talented professional drivers and more so, for women drivers,” says McKenzie.
“Our Academy has a proud history of providing sustainable career opportunities to people that live in the areas in which we operate. For us, the Women Driver Development Programme has once again shown that the transport industry has a real opportunity to make an impact on unemployment levels, providing a prospect for females to develop their careers. Many of our highly skilled driver trainers started as professional drivers with us and have progressed into training roles”, states McKenzie.
18-year-old Amanda Mathebula, is a professional truck driver in training who, fresh out of high school, signed up for a National Certificate in Professional Driving with the Barloworld Logistics Academy at the beginning of 2018.
She recently obtained her Code 14 license on her first attempt and is due to complete the first year of the three-year school partnership program offered through the Barloworld Logistics Academy which covers both professional driving and transport operations management.
“When I first got into a truck, I was nervous because I was new to driving. Since I got my Code 14 license and began my training, I am far more confident.” says Mathebula.
For many school-leavers like Mathebula, the allure of a career in business or traditional professions lead them to sign up for expensive tertiary qualifications that often leave graduates without a clear career path, in debt and inexperienced when it comes to the everyday demands of a professional career. But for Mathebula, a career in transport became a real option when she first heard about the opportunities available to young school-leavers through the Barloworld Logistics Academy.
“I always wanted to do something different from my peers who were all interested in careers such as engineering, accounting and teaching. I wanted to be different. At first, my family and friends were surprised”, laughs Mathebula. “They thought I would change my mind as time went by, but they ended up believing in me when they saw how determined I was and how well I was doing”.
“Young people are not exposed to information around the transport industry, and most of what they know isn’t really positive. They believe that the industry is mainly for old men and they think that it is only about driving, but there is so much more to it!. I am exposed to so many different facets of the business, I am learning Fire Fighting, First Aid, Business Management, Customer Service, Financial Management and many more aspects I can apply both to my personal and professional life.”
When asked about her experiences so far, Mathebula’s optimism was clear, “My experiences this year have been great, and the best part of what I do is that I get to travel and see places I have never seen before. I learn new things every day, including how to face various challenges on and off the road. I love my job and I am always excited to start each day!”
In 2016, the Barloworld Logistics Academy embarked on an industry-first female-focused driver development programme, which has seen over 100 graduates since its inception, of which 90% have been retained in various business units within Barloworld Logistics.
Left to right are Thokozane Ngema (Driver Trainer), Nduna Chari (Driver Trainer), Slie Ndlovu (Training Officer), Sydney Mkhize (Driver Trainer), Amanda Mathebula and Siphiwe Makhatini(Driver Trainer)
Mike Wilson, Senior Manager for technical training at the Barloworld Logistics Academy, says that the invaluable expertise passed on to learners through the experienced Technical Trainers is what sets the learnership apart. “Our trainers are world-class, both in their technical knowledge and their training abilities. We are so much more than a standard driving school, we impart knowledge gained through years of driving and transport operational experience and we do it with pride.,” says Wilson, who is responsible for his team of 30 trainers across the country who train both employed drivers that are part of the existing Barloworld Logistics driver workforce, as well as learners at the Academy hubs in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng. Key to the development of professional drivers is not just the operational expertise related to ultra-heavy vehicles, but the safety components, which accounts for over 50% of the formal training given throughout the three-year programme.
At Barloworld Logistics, drivers are viewed as skilled professionals, and through initiatives such as the Driver of the Year programme, accredited Academy programmes and various others development initiatives, continuous learning is embedded into the organisational ethos. Thanks to this combination of rigorous recruitment criteria and ongoing training interventions, the men and woman behind the wheels of the Transports Divisions trucks are the best of the best. A truck may just look like a truck and a driver may seem to just be a driver, but to us, these men and women are what enables economic development, market access and strategy realisation – and with a firm foundation, we believe our business is well poised to continue to create real career opportunities for our nation for years to come.
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