Thursday, September 30, 2021

ATA unveils ‘Careers in High Gear’ workforce development initiative

The Alabama Trucking Association has unveiled its nextgen workforce development program called ‘Careers in High Gear” which seeks to alleviate the critical need for qualified candidates to fill thousands of vacant commercial driving and diesel service technician jobs in Alabama.

The program is the result of nearly a year of research and analysis to find the most effective ways to showcase driver and technician jobs as viable choices for Alabamians who are interested in finding a new career. 

ATA has partnered with strategic marketing agency Markstein to assist in the development and execution of the new strategic plan — which was introduced during the ATA 82nd Annual Convention last week in Destin, Fla.

“This program signifies our ongoing objective to promote and protect the trucking industry,” said ATA President and CEO Mark Colson. “Markstein specializes in developing and implementing integrated marketing campaigns designed to increase awareness of career, training and education opportunities within high-demand industries such as trucking, construction and aviation. Other industries spend millions of dollars in Alabama on strategic campaigns to attract workers while the trucking industry spends zero. That is about to change. We have high hopes for this new program, and we can’t wait to share its complete mission, and the team we have assembled to facilitate it.”

In a presentation delivered during the Friday morning business session, Markstein associate director Alan Alexander showcased strategies and creative concepts of the plan.

“Key messaging will build the future workforce by inspiring interest in commercial trucking among (high school) students through identifying career pathways and providing career and training resources,” Alexander said. “Collaborating with training and education programs throughout the state, we want to develop the next generation of highly-skilled and safety-focused commercial drivers and diesel technicians.”

Alexander said the initial ad campaign will begin in early 2022 and will focus on two target personas: The Career Changer, which is someone who is seeking a stable, purpose-driven career with the opportunity to see things and find new life experiences. 

“This person may have been in the job force for a while, but perhaps is underemployed or was affected by the pandemic either losing a job or maybe forced to take a significant reduction in pay,” he said. “Maybe this person doesn’t feel they are getting all they need from their current career path, and they want a job that makes them feel they belong to something bigger than themselves, or maybe they want a job that allows them to travel and see the country.”

The other persona is the Student. For years, parents, high school educators, and guidance counselors have downplayed the advantages and opportunities of working in the trades. “So much has been focused on getting a four-year degree,” Alexander said. “Part of our strategy will be to provide educators with tools and information that will dispel common misinformation and biases against trucking.”

Alexander explained that the “Careers in High Gear” program will showcase the advantages of taking on lower or no debt to attend a trade school or community college to train either as a service technician or a commercial driver. The campaign will also fully explain and map pathways one might take for training and landing a job in trucking.

Messaging will also humanize the professionals behind the wheel or under the hood of a truck with positive and compelling storytelling. Print and digital format ads will showcase “The Real Faces of Alabama Trucking,” creating authenticity for the commercial driver and diesel technician workers. Markstein’s creative team will focus on positive stories of real professionals within each messaging theme and showcase the diversity of the workforce — some of the featured workers will come from ATA member firms.

Ads will point back to a landing page hosted on the ATA website,, that will provide more information and resources to connect people to training institutions across the state.

Alexander said the media campaign, which will begin as a 3-month pilot program in targeted areas of the state, will be strategic and measured. Analytics and data collected will allow campaign managers to adjust or change tactics quickly.