TORONTO, Nov. 18 /CNW/ – The McGuinty government is helping the trucking industry meet its need for skilled workers and improving road safety by creating an apprenticeship for truck drivers, Chris Bentley, the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, announced today.

“In today’s economy, prosperity depends upon having a skilled workforce,” said Bentley. “Truck driving is one of the most common occupations in Canada. This new apprenticeship will improve driver education, support the trucking industry’s commitment to training and the growth of the sector, and build a pool of skilled drivers.”

The voluntary program was developed in conjunction with the industry and other interested groups. It will train apprentice tractor-trailer commercial drivers to plan trips and inspect equipment, safely handle cargo, conduct routine vehicle checks, and prepare documentation, including bills of lading, border crossing security and custom forms.

Training will be voluntary and available for people who want to become apprentice drivers starting early in 2006. “For the first time the government has recognized that a truck driver is a skilled professional, not an unskilled worker. This is a big step forward for the trucking industry,” said David Bradley, president of the Ontario Trucking Association.

“Teamsters Canada feels that this is taking ‘one giant step’ forward as it recognizes that the profession of truck driver is a skilled position. With the number of drivers in the workforce that are retiring and the shortage of skilled drivers, it is of the utmost importance to replace these drivers and hire additional drivers,” said Bud McAulay, assistant freight director at Teamsters Canada.

“This new training program will help address the shortage of experienced, qualified drivers in an industry that is vital to Ontario’s economy. Every year Ontario’s highways carry almost $1.2 trillion worth of goods,” said Transportation Minister Harinder Takhar.

Ontario has Canada’s largest apprenticeship training system with over 140 trades. The Ontario government has introduced the Apprenticeship Training Tax Credit to encourage more employers to train apprentices. Apprenticeship training will be a key feature of Ontario’s new One-Stop Training and Employment System, a seamless and co-ordinated training network.

“The McGuinty government intends to increase the number of new apprentice registrations by 7,000 to a total of 26,000 annually in 2007-08,” said Bentley.