Carl Gilchrist, Gleaner Writer
BROWN'S TOWN, St Ann:DESPITE PERFORMING in sub-zero conditions for the most part, Jamaican drivers in Canada have impressed their employers, sending them scurrying back to the land of sunshine for more drivers to fill positions in that country.
The employers hosted a job fair at the Ministry of Labour's St Ann's Bay office last week Thursday. Some employers spoke to The Gleaner later that day during the handover of a truck-driver training unit to Brown's Town Community College.
Andy Roberts, a driver trainer who operates Mountain Transport Institute Ltd in British Columbia, was one of the many persons recently in the island to recruit Jamaican drivers. He has trained more than 50 Jamaicans so far and gives them a positive rating, including the fact that they are easy to train.
"I think Jamaicans are very genuine people. We really enjoy having them. Most of them have a huge thirst for the knowledge and the education because there hasn't been a lot of education for drivers in Jamaica so far," Roberts told The Gleaner.
"Overall, the Jamaicans are well received."
Roberts said a lot of the drivers work 12-hour days, five days per week.
Douglas Sutherland, general manager of SutCo, who first visited Jamaica in March 2012 to seek drivers, spoke passionately about the attitude of Jamaicans, referring specifically to Robert Clayton, who was recruited in November 2012.
He took Clayton along to help him recruit additional drivers because of the impression the Jamaican created on the company in the few months he has been there.
"Robert walks into our office and literally people smile because he comes up, 'How you doing? I'm blessed today'. He's happy. the weather's terrible out there, but he's got a smile!" related Sutherland. "Someone else comes in, says 'it's the worst day ever!' Robert comes into a situation way worse than he has ever seen in his life with a smile: 'I'm gonna tackle it!' That's what's special about Jamaica!"
impressed with standard
Clayton said leaving Jamaica last November and heading into minus 20 degrees conditions was very difficult, but he persisted.
"I am here to help my boss to do some recruitment. He told me he was very impressed with my standard of work so he told me he had no choice but to look to Jamaica for further employment," Clayton said. He added: "I really want to extend thanks to Michael Patterson (of the recruiting firm HireProDrivers)."
Gordie Atwood of Easson's Transport in Novia Scotia came to Jamaica last year and is back again.
"I was here last year and I'm very happy to be back this year," he said. Testing the waters last year, he hired four drivers. This time he's back for between 12 to 14.
According to Atwood, "They have turned out to be phenomenal drivers for us. They've done a great job. They've experienced all types of terrain when it come to weather in Canada and have done very, very well and we're happy to be in the recruiting process of Jamaicans coming to Nova Scotia, Canada. Next year, I'm sure we'll be back."
Les Rozander, director, retention and recruiting at Trimac, said the experience has been very good.
Rozander said initial fears about Jamaicans not being able to cope with the conditions in Canada were not realised.
"They have proven to be very adaptable. We are very pleased, very pleased."
The largest number of drivers seem to be headed for Canada Cartage, based in Mississauga. Kerry Wilson, health, safety and compliance manager, arrived in Jamaica for the first time and has interviewed nearly 120 drivers. He will select between 50 and 60 to head to Canada "at the first opportunity".
"It's my first time. I hope to be back as soon as possible to support the rest of our needs," Wilson said.