More than ever, the Transportation Industry is being recognized and supported as an essential service. In the current COVID-19 environment, it has become vital that transport trucks and drivers continue to keep shelves stocked and supply chains open. But behind the scenes, there’s another group of essential workers: the teams and technicians who keep those trucks running.
On March 19 2020, the Province of New Brunswick declared a State of Emergency, initiating the closure of most retail operations and services. A heavy-duty truck retailer, parts and service provider, Universal Truck and Trailer remained open and active – in both Saint John and Dieppe, NB. Significant effort and oversight went into measures to keep employees and customers safe and healthy.
“We continue to closely monitor the impacts of COVID-19 and will adapt our strategy to best protect our workers, customers and communities,” says Don Bonnell, General Manager of Universal Truck and Trailer. “So far, our team has met every new challenge with skill and determination. Their work allows drivers to get back on the road, and get back to their families safely.”
For more information on the company’s COVID-19 response, see here: https://vimeo.com/413707994
As the company has remained open, Bonnell and other leaders have continued to stress the importance of hiring skilled tradespeople in New Brunswick.
“Our employees at Universal Truck and Trailer have a high level of skill and knowledge all across the business,” says Cara VanBuskirk, Director of Human Relations. “Baby Boomers make up 28% of our current workforce. Over the next 5-10 years, many will transition into a well-earned retirement. It’s important for us to ensure we have plans to fill that gap.”
Most technicians employed by the company have Truck and Transport backgrounds, acquired through an apprenticeship, post-secondary education, or a combination of both. While many new employees come to the company as Co-Op placements through New Brunswick Community College (NBCC), Universal Truck and Trailer has taken steps to ensure it provides a variety of options to interested students or young adults.
For several years, the company has sustained a program that allows high school and NBCC students to work part-time in its shipping and receiving department. There, they begin to learn the business and gain months (or even years) of experience. On graduation from college, many of these students have transitioned into full-time apprenticeship positions and been paired with a mentor. Current apprentices, Dylan Skinner, Curtis Leger and Justin Cormier were all participants in this program, hired full-time between 2018 and 2020.
The company is participating in a major Kent Building Supplies upskilling program for its employees, welcoming and training employees in new roles and helping them grow their competencies and careers. Since 2019, the company has also been a participant employer in the Skilled Trades Exploration Program for Women (STEPW), welcoming 4 women to begin training as Truck and Trailer Apprentices.
Ultimately, each of these avenues leads to top-tier programming and support for apprentices, and hands-on training with expert mentors.
Even amid the COVID-19 crisis, Universal Truck and Trailer is looking to fill positions and bring in talent:
“There has never been a bigger need for tradespeople and apprentices, not just in the trucking industry, but in all trades,” says Danny LeBlanc, Operations Manager. “Our Truck and Transport service technicians have a variety of backgrounds – some learned primarily in classrooms, others in backyards and one is no better than the other.”
“Choosing a career in the Skilled Trades is a sure way to make a good living,” comments VanBuskirk. “At Universal Truck and Trailer, we are hiring Truck and Transport students before they even start the program. Currently, we have 14 apprentices, in all levels of their training. We have an excellent relationship with the province’s Apprentice Coordinators and are always looking for licensed skilled workers.”
“Supporting apprentices is a great business move, even in a COVID-19 environment” says Bonnell. “Our techs have – literally – hundreds of years’ experience between them, so the apprentices are learning from the best, on the front lines. Being involved in training, from the very beginning of the process, gives us an opportunity to instill our shop habits early and improve overall safety. Sponsoring apprentices is an investment in our future as well as theirs.”
In these challenging times, we thank all essential workers in every sector for the work they do on the front lines. And we extend our sincere thanks to those staying home and helping to flatten the curve. For more information about Universal Truck and Trailer, please visit universaltruckandtrailer.com.