THE Victorian Transport Association has praised a new qualification for high school students, aimed at preparing them for a career in the rail industry, as a model that should be extended to road transport.

The qualification announced by ports and freight Minister Melissa Horne aims to encourage students from years nine and ten to consider joining the rail industry after completing their studies, with a part-time course offered over two years counting towards a VCE qualification.

VTA chief executive Peter Anderson said the road transport sector needed the same kind of support.

“The biggest issue facing the road transport industry is the lack of young people entering the sector and this is a problem that will blow up considering the average age of a truck driver in Victoria is 57 and starting to contemplate retirement,” Mr Anderson said.

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“We are working closely with the Victorian government to change our outdated heavy vehicle licensing model so that young people can receive professional training and instruction and start a career as a professional driver straight out of high school.”

Mr Anderson said capturing the interest and imagination of young people aged 15 and over would help motivate them towards a career in road transport, “which is where a transport qualification that would count towards a student’s VCE qualification would really help”.

The VTA’s Driver Delivery program is providing specialist heavy vehicle driver training as part of the Victorian government’s $4m program to train 400 new drivers, which Peter Anderson said was a good start towards addressing driver shortages in the sector.

“Capturing the interest of young people early, and assuring them that a career in transport is well-paid, respected and valued by society as part of a structured course at high school, could be a game-changer and help the industry to recruit and retain new drivers,” he said. “We will continue to work closely with the Victorian Government and other stakeholders on creative ways to attract young people to a career as a professional transport worker.”

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