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Transport plays a significant role in the growth and development of any country. In addition to its economic contribution, transport is critical to upward social mobility, broadening access to health care, education, employment, and promotes social cohesion. Diversity within the transport industry is just as critical to sustainability and growth.

When it comes to the commuter bus service industry, a major barrier to entry has been the perception that driving a bus is a male profession. This, more than any other factor, has worked to entrench a preference for male drivers and has discouraged female interest in the profession.

Riding the Passenger Bus Industry into a Gender Equitable Future

The times are changing and there are bus operators who recognise that diversity in the workplace must include women in traditionally male roles. Companies such as PUTCO have pledged that their contribution to skills development and transformation, will include the championing of female empowerment within the transport sector. PUTCO’s Training Academy and Selection Centre prioritizes the selection and training of female drivers. Through the company’s professional learnership and other training programmes, 56 female drivers have been trained and are still employed by the Company over the last 15 years. This represents 3.23% of the total number of drivers currently employed. PUTCO is committed to increasing this figure the number through every learnership intake.

Participants in the professional learnership programme undergo six months of theoretical and practical training at the Training Academy, followed by another month of practical driving at the depot, moving busess inside the depot premisis. Once they are found competent on the first part of their training they commence route training under the watchful eye of mentor drivers. Once qualified, graduates operate shifts on their own.

PUTCO’s commitment to gender equality does not end there. The PUTCO apprenticeship programmes offer courses for diesel mechanics and auto electricians. Many trainees go on to qualify as Artisans after writing their trade tests. Refilwe Setlau, who was a female apprentice living with a hearing impairment, recently qualified as a professional Auto Electrician Artisan. PUTCO currently has 166 Apprentices in its training programme, 65 of these Apprentices are females.

PUTCO’s MD, Franco Pisapia, believes strongly that it is only through embracing diversity and facilitating inclusion that South Africans can shift perceptions and address stereotypes within the bus operator industry and the wider transport sector.