Alberta Motor Transportation Association (AMTA)’s Driver Developer Cavan DaPonte has a new lease on life after taking part in the Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) Alberta Training on the Job program.
In 2011, DaPonte was 34-years-old, the father of two children under the age of six. On April 25, life would change as he knew it. While at work one day, DaPonte was injured while repairing a portion of a mobile asphalt plant.
“The shafts were already off balance due to the excessive wear from years of mixing gravel, oil, mastic, and the other ingredients of asphalt,” DaPonte explained. “With the addition of heat and extra abrasive resistant steel on the shafts of the auger to offset the wear process while I was welding, the shafts were left further out of balance and began to turn during the repair process. My boot was the first to get dragged into the path of the auger. By the time I realized I was in danger and lifted my welding mask, the next auger flight in succession contacted my shin and shattered my tibia.”
The injury resulted in an eight-month hospital stay, including four surgeries and five procedures.
“I missed out on a lot of activities with my children like teaching them how to ride a bike, hiking through the wilderness, camping, fishing and hunting,” DaPonte said. “My life consisted of physiotherapy sessions, doctors’ appointments, and rehabilitation services.”
Adjusting to a new lifestyle was no simple task for DaPonte and resulted in a long list of psychological impacts he “wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy”: the isolation of being a stay-at-home parent, dealing with depression, marriage struggles and losing the ability to do things such as motorcycling, hunting and sports took its toll. The years after the accident were a struggle, and to this day DaPonte carries daily reminders.
“In the surgical repair of my leg, a rod was inserted into my tibia,” he explained. “Because of how the shattered bone fragments fused in the healing process, my left leg is now 5/8 inches longer than my right one. With this leg length discrepancy, the physical impacts to my knees, hips and lower back affect me daily and will well beyond my retirement.”
While with the WCB Return To Work Program, DaPonte heard about the Training on the Job (TOJ) Program through his job developer and case worker.
When a worker suffers an injury in the workplace, WCB says a ‘significant number’ suffer a permanent disability and might not be able to return to work for the same level of pay. WCB pays to make up the loss of earnings. In the past five years, those benefits have been increasing in Alberta and make up almost one-third of all claims costs.
The AMTA initially became involved with the TOJ program as an industry stakeholder and communication collaborator. The leadership team worked closely with WCB and its affiliate, the Millard Treatment Centre – which provides assessment, treatment and prevention services – learning about TOJ and building a strategy to support it. In building out occupational profiles specific to their backgrounds, the AMTA met some candidates.
“The exercise was designed to identify those competencies which would be beneficial to employers in transportation and identify a professional development strategy which would allow them to integrate more quickly and efficiently into their new role,” explained AMTA Director of COR/Injury Reduction and Training (IRT) Erik Sherman. “That was how we met Cavan. He has an extraordinary background with diverse competencies of which we felt the AMTA could benefit.”
The Association had not initially planned on making a hire but after seeing DaPonte’s extensive resume made the decision to recruit him under the TOJ program. This allowed AMTA to experience the program from the inside – as a user – as well as how individuals hired under the program were being managed by WCB and Millard.
For AMTA President Chris Nash, the decision to onboard a candidate from the TOJ program was an easy one.
“Given the opportunity for AMTA to bring a solution to industry, we were all in,” he said. “This really aligns with a bigger association vision for creating pathways for entrance and/or advancement in the transportation industry, an industry that is consistently looking to fill vacancies due to shortages and an aging workforce.”
DaPonte started his new career as a driver developer with the AMTA’s IRT Department in November 2019 and hasn’t looked back.
“Working for the AMTA has brought positive daily impacts on my life,” he explained. “Apart from new friendships and social interaction – something that had been lacking in my life while not working – my education and knowledge of the transportation industry began to grow very quickly. I love learning, especially when it’s about a topic that I’m passionate about, such as health and safety.”
For the association, the feeling is mutual.
“Cavan is very well-spoken, intelligent, caring and invested in his future,” said Sherman. “Since coming on, Cavan has confirmed our expectations. He is an excellent writer and is currently working on program development while learning to instruct.”
For Nash, the decision to work with the TOJ program is a simple one.
“The program is a no risk way to hire an employee – including employer requested training for the candidate prior to hiring, no risk to the previous injury becoming the hiring employers responsibility, wage subsidy from the onset, ergonomic support if needed,” he said. “TOJ puts an injured worker back into the career pool which is healthy and helpful in many ways for them, and the employer gets the benefits that go along with it. It is a great program.”
As for injured workers like DaPonte, the TOJ program has provided him with a new outlook on life.
“The program helped me highlight my skills and experience in a manner that was much more appealing to potential employers,” he explained. “It gave me the resources to create an effective resume, it notified me of upcoming job fairs, told me which employers were hiring… I truly hope this program can provide the same results to many more clients of WCB. I feel [being employed] is an extremely important factor we often take for granted in society; everyone wants to be a part of something.”