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Designing your future workforce
Global | Muscat

Designing your future workforce

18 Dec 2018

Roundtable session wrap-up

Part of the “Future Proofing Your Business” hub at the World Congress, this roundtable debated the impact of technology on the future workforce and how to reverse today’s chronic shortage of drivers.

Road transport operators are facing an unprecedented driver shortage and the most recent demographics demonstrate that it will only get worse. This issue is jeopardising the sustainable growth of road transport. 

It is now time to address this challenge. Driving new talents to the industry with attractive working conditions is pivotal in the years ahead. Can new technologies make the job more attractive? Will the emergence of new technologies create opportunities for women and younger workers? What solutions are being tested? What role should the industry play in upgrading workers’ skills in the context of the digital/autonomous transition?

Speakers in this session were panel moderator and independent journalist Jørn Madslien, Bilal Malkawi from International Transport Workers’ Federation, Alex Knowles from Knowles Transport, Patrick Westelinck from the Belgian Professional Association of Private Bus and Coach Operators, Robert Makondo from Mowasalat, and Wanja Getambu Kiragu from East African Online Transport Agency. 

Designing your future workforce

Jørn Madslien kicked off the debate by asking panelists how the technological revolution - automation, autonomous vehicles and assisted driving - is affecting their business or organisation. 

Patrick Westelinck was the first to respond pointing out that in Europe the digital revolution will have a different impact on bus versus truck drivers. 

Bilal Malkawi added his view that by using phrases like driverless trucks it turns away potential drivers who see no future in the profession and pursue other careers. “It is clear that no one wants to be a driver when we are saying in 5 or 10 years the job will disappear. We need to be cautious about how we talk about innovation.”  

The industry needs to take concrete steps to change attitudes, improve training, and modify some infrastructure to attract more women to the profession

Wanja Getambu Kiragu discussed bringing more diversity to the workforce by attracting more women to the driving profession. “When we talk about women in transport we first need to ask, is the environment conducive for women? Are there appropriate working conditions for women?” she said. She concluded by saying that the industry needs to take concrete steps to change attitudes, improve training, and modify some infrastructure to attract more women to the profession. 

Robert Makondo agreed with Bilal’s point with respect to how the industry talks about innovation. In his company Mowasalat, they explain to drivers that technology is there to help them, make the profession safer. And despite their best recruitment efforts, they remain short of 500 drivers. Going forward, he anticipates needing another 2500 drivers, which means by the end of 2019 he will need 3000 more drivers. He wonders where he will find them.

Alex Knowles confirmed the driver shortage problem is a massive crisis in the United Kingdom. He offered some statistics to highlight this issue including the most worrisome that some 60% of drivers are over the age of 45 in the UK or that only 1% of drivers are women. “How do we change the perception of the driver profession to attract more young people, including women?” 

Everyone agreed that through improvements in working conditions and better campaigning via social media, some frontline solutions to addressing the driver shortage will emerge.