Nearly two thirds of logistics businesses are battling to fill vacancies. What can we do, asks Sally Gilson?
The logistics sector is the lifeblood of the nation’s economy, providing invaluable support services for many businesses within the packaging, food and beverage, processing and manufacturing sectors. But despite this vital role, all too often, careers in the logistics industry are overlooked by the workforce because of a lack of visibility for the industry, or lack of awareness of the requirements for roles in the sector.
Among the key findings of the FTA’s Logistics Skills Report 2019, a staggering 64 percent of transport and storage businesses are struggling to fill job vacancies. The issue is particularly acute in road transport: the UK now faces a shortfall of 59,000 HGV drivers. And, with the average age of a HGV driver currently sitting at 48 years old, it is clear we must, in the view of FTA, place emphasis on making a career in logistics attractive to the younger generation.
FTA has established a partnership with Think Logistics, an arm of educational charity Career Ready, to build links between schools, colleges and employers to communicate the opportunities a career in logistics presents to young people. But awareness is only one piece of the puzzle: the government must rethink its treatment of drivers if new employees are to be attracted into and retained by the industry. Only by delivering promised upgrades to driver facilities and infrastructure will professional driving be viewed as an aspirational career choice. Furthermore, the apprenticeship levy is not working for logistics businesses across the UK and needs to be radically overhauled if the workforce of tomorrow is to be trained effectively. In its current format, without appropriate standards against which employees can be trained, the Apprenticeship Levy is not fit for purpose and, in many cases, is limiting training opportunities for those already in logistics as businesses cannot afford to “double pay” for the required training. In addition, once contributed to the Apprenticeship Levy funds, contributions cannot be drawn down for alternative business needs and are lots to the very industry which needs new, skilled workers.
FTA is calling for the Apprenticeship Levy to become a Skills Levy, so previously unused funds can be utilised for more flexible training programmes. Finally, with the logistics sector heavily reliant on EU workers, it is crucial that any future immigration policy will allow continued access post Brexit and a rethink on the minimum salary and qualification thresholds.
Logistics is a flexible, highly adaptable industry, which always goes the extra mile to deliver for its customers. Yet without adequate allowances for training and development and the improvement of driver facilities, the labour shortage will continue to escalate, and logistics businesses will simply not be able to operate effectively.
Efficient logistics is vital to keep Britain trading, directly having an impact on more than seven million people employed in the making, selling and moving of goods. With Brexit, new technology and other disruptive forces driving change in the way goods move across borders and through the supply chain, logistics has never been more important to UK plc.
A champion and challenger, FTA speaks to the government with one voice on behalf of the whole sector, with members from the road, rail, sea and air industries, as well as the buyers of freight services such as retailers and manufacturers.
Sally champions the logistics industry, has created new qualifications and helped develop the Trailblazer Apprenticeships for LGV drivers and transport managers. To find out more about the FTA, visit: fta.co.uk