Labour shortages in the trucking and logistics sector have led several employers to use signing bonuses as a recruitment strategy. What if the tables turned? What if there were bonuses or incentives for employers who hire students or young workers?
That’s exactly what Arrow Logistics found through Trucking HR Canada’s Career ExpressWay when they hired a student, and were able to receive a subsidy equivalent to 75% (up to $7,500) of that student hire’s wages through the Student Work Placement Program (SWPP).
“I had my HR people look to see if there were any programs that would align with what we are doing and they are the ones who found the program,” says McLean Cruthers, Project & Logistics Manager at Arrow Logistics about SWPP.
During a particularly busy period at Arrow, they noticed they needed help in warehouse logistics. The financial support from Trucking HR Canada (THRC) certainly helped Cruthers “sell” the idea of recruiting additional staff to upper management, he says.
Cruthers, having experienced being a co-op student himself as he began his career, was excited by the opportunity to introduce a young worker to the industry. “I myself was a younger person in the industry. I, too, went through a similar student program that I hired with,” he recalls.
Jeff Duong, the young man he recruited through the Career ExpressWay program, is 26 years old and on his way to earning a Bachelor’s degree in Commerce with a major in Supply Chain Management at MacEwan University in Edmonton.
“My main job was to make sure that containers were arriving at specific times as well as organizing the warehouse and making sure that the products are going at the time that is needed,” Duong says about his placement experience.
Getting better all the time
Cruthers liked Duong’s analytic approach to his work. “We can always work more on the continuous improvement and, even though we’re doing well now, it doesn’t mean we can’t be doing better,” he says.
Duong contributed to improving some aspects of the company’s operations and the partial wage subsidy was an added bonus. “By the end of my co-op internship, I was able to improve upon some of the communication as well as inventory accuracy and efficiencies within the warehouse operations,” the young man says about his time at Arrow.
Getting work experience before graduating and thus becoming even more attractive to future employers was Duong’s plan when he joined the SWPP. According to Cruthers, it was a win-win situation. “It worked both ways. We were giving a student an opportunity and we were getting somebody we could hire for eight months through that contract work and get financial support. When I look just at my division, it helped in the overall bottom line, for sure,” he says.
Cruthers helped Duong understand the functioning of the warehouse from the ground up and taught him what the forklift operators and the drivers go through before taking it to the next level of supervising.
“You definitely have to be able to balance giving them an everyday job where they can get to a role, have functions that help operate the business on a day-to-day basis and keep the business going while also finding ways to develop through new things that happen as well,” Cruthers says.
And new things happen all the time in the trucking and logistics sector, Duong learned. Something that was not in his books at University. “You can’t really plan out everything because at the end of the day, when you’re working with trucks there will be things that go wrong all the time,” he says about the need to have contingency plans and continually adapt to the situation.
His initial interest in logistics developed during travel in China in 2019, as he was visiting a trade city called Yiwu. “I was mesmerized by the amounts of inventory and products that were there. I wanted to understand how that worked,” Duong recalls.
Arrow contributed to that understanding. Cruthers says he and Duong had very interesting discussions about the evolution of the whole supply chain environment. “Just having engaged conversations about that was, I guess, the most rewarding thing,” Cruthers says, referring to the passion he could see in the intern’s eyes.
While it was the first time that Arrow hired a young worker through such an initiative, it probably won’t be the last. “If the opportunity is there, for sure we’ll definitely do that,” Cruthers says about using the Career ExpressWay program again.