An important part of fostering a diverse and inclusive workplace at Cleanaway is increasing female participation across our workforce. Operational roles, including heavy vehicle driving, are the most widely held roles at Cleanaway and have traditionally been filled by male team members.
“Our operational teams currently sit at about 7% female, which clearly isn’t reflective of the community and customers we serve,” Executive General Manager, Solid Waste Services Tracey Boyes explained. “Our goal is to create a pipeline of great women in our operational teams to drive and become our leaders of the future.”
Cleanaway’s Driver Academy for Women was launched in 2021 to give people outside of the waste management industry an opportunity to start a new career path, with heavy vehicle training and ongoing support provided. The academy is tailored to women, female-identifying and non-binary people who have never driven a truck before to help close the gender gap in the waste management industry.
Pictured: Learning to lift bins through the Driver Academy for Women training program.
Sarah Corvi and Lisa Carberry both took part in the first round of the Driver Academy in Victoria and are now qualified side lift drivers with Cleanaway.
Before joining the Driver Academy, Sarah had worked in administration, delivery driving and warehousing, and was returning to full-time work after several years as a stay-at-home mum. “I was apprehensive about the hours and making sure I had an understanding with my employer that I was first and foremost a mum,” Sarah described. “Cleanaway blew my expectations out of the water and all of that apprehension and fear disappeared.”
Lisa joined the Driver Academy from a career in customer service for telecommunications and utilities companies. The idea of going from driving a car to driving a truck while also picking up bins was daunting to Lisa, but thanks to the support received through the program, she hasn’t looked back. “The training through TAFE and the support from all the managers has made me feel like I can approach them with any concerns I have. The buddy system is amazing, with lots of on-the-road training. To this day, my buddy still checks in with me to see how I am going,” said Lisa.
Sarah shared similar thoughts about the training and support provided through the academy: “The knowledge given to us, from both the TAFE course and Cleanaway employees from all different parts of the company, was overwhelming. We had amazing support from basically everyone at Cleanaway. It’s been the most inviting team at any company I’ve ever dealt with and feel comfortable and confident in my colleagues to be able to stop and ask for help when I need.”
Not only do Driver Academy participants receive support from more experienced Cleanaway employees and accredited training providers, but also through being part of a team embarking on a new challenge together. “One of the best things about the Driver Academy is that the women create a community, so they have a team to bounce off and support each other as they navigate this new career,” said Tracey.
Pictured: Driver Academy support comes from experienced Cleanaway drivers, accredited training providers and within the academy team. Pictured are Driver Academy graduates Sarah Corvi (far left) and Sonia Kaur (far right) with David and Alex from Wodonga TAFE.
Cleanaway is continuing to expand the Driver Academy, with programs launching in states across the country, as well as extending into heavy machinery operation programs. “I’d love to see at least another 50 to 100 women join Cleanaway through our Driver Academy in the next 12 months. Supported by their networks of incredible women, I hope to see them stay and enjoy long careers at Cleanaway (and bring their friends!),” said Tracey.
For those considering a career change to heavy vehicle driving, Tracey highlighted the importance of that role in the waste management industry: “As a driver, you’re first in the chain – without you, we don’t collect the waste that we then turn into products. It’s a critical role, in an industry that is critical today and into the future.”
Pictured: The VIC Solids Driver Academy for Women celebrates their graduation day.
As for Sarah and Lisa, they’re both thrilled that they took the leap and are excited about what the future holds. “This is not just something I want to do, but it is a new passion I have,” Lisa explained. “I can see myself not turning back to my old life as an office worker and instead being a heavy vehicle driver for the rest of my working life.”
“I have a plan of where I want to be in ten years with my driving and how I’m going to get there,” Sarah said. “I see the bulldozers, tippers and double semis with walking floors at Melbourne Regional Landfill (MRL) and can’t help but think that I could operate them someday, and Cleanaway has made that a possibility with the Driver Academy.”
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