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In the driving seat

The challenges facing our future workforce

The challenges facing our future workforce

The logistics sector is facing an era of unprecedented change, from the development of new technologies to ongoing challenges by environmental concerns, yet it remains devoted to keeping Britain trading whatever challenges lie ahead. Despite such a determined workforce, FTA’s Logistics Skills Report 2019 revealed that 64% of logistics businesses are struggling to fill vacancies, a matter of key concern for this developing, fast paced industry. In this article, Sally Gilson, Head of Skills Campaigns at FTA, the voice of the UK logistics sector, outlines the challenges facing the industry.

Despite being one of the UK’s largest sectors and playing a vital role in daily life, logistics is often overlooked in terms of recruitment and workforce. And, with 33% of HGV drivers projected to retire over the next 5 years, more than 100,000 positions will need to be filled. Logistics businesses are already feeling the pressure with 13.7% of respondents unable to fill job vacancies, equating to a shortfall of 59,000 HGV drivers in the UK, according to FTA’s Skills Report 2019. In addition to the ineffective Apprenticeship Levy, there are also many contributing social factors for this such as long working hours and negative public perception of the role itself. The need for specialist skills and qualifications compared with other logistics roles, such as van drivers, can also prove a barrier to attractive new talent. By comparison, the vans employment market is thriving, with a significant 12.4% rise in van drivers this past year alone. Boosted by online retail, van drivers are becoming a significant resource within logistics and, despite diversity remaining a key challenge along operators – 92% of van drivers are male – the sector saw a dramatic decline in the number of unfilled vacancies in 2019. However, with unemployment at its lowest on record and both occupations being heavily reliant on EU workers, it is crucial to the logistics sector that any future immigration policy will allow continued access post Brexit and a rethink on the minimum salary and qualification thresholds. For the first time, the FTA Logistics Skills Report has analysed the future of work and the possible impacts of automation. This is already being seen in warehouses, across administration, route planning and vehicles, which are becoming more advanced with automatic braking systems.

With last mile delivery costs compromising 53% of the total cost of shipping – along with the increased
consumer demand for free delivery – retailers and the logistics industry are looking at ways to make the
last mile more cost efficient. Last mile deliveries will look considerably different over the next 10 years and the report highlights that 64.9% of the industry’s jobs – including van, HGV and forklift drivers – are at medium risk of automation. However, FTA members believe we are still some way from seeing automated vans and trucks due to the constrictions within the UK’s urban infrastructure.

Business owners are recognising this shift in industry, with 19% of respondents stating they are investing in technical education within their organisation. However, with respondents citing ‘unable to recruit staff with the required skills’ as the main cause of the skills gap, it is imperative – in the opinion of FTA – that the government adapts the Apprenticeship Levy to become a Skills Levy. This will enable previously unused funds to become available for more flexible training programmes and allow the industry to address the labour shortage that needs to be rectified. In addition, new apprenticeships can take several years to develop and gain approval, with logistics innovations changing so quickly the apprenticeship system will not be able to keep up with the demand for our specific training needs. Changes made now will ensure the logistics industry will keep Britain trading long into the future.

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 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. For more information please visit FTA.

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