The skills shortage within the UK supply chain is certainly nothing new. What has changed more recently is the uncertainty around Brexit and the impact on the many thousands of EU nationals that currently make up a significant proportion of the sectors workforce. The Road Haulage Association and Freight Transport Association have both published figures over the past 12 months that already estimate the driver shortage alone to be around 50,000. With the logistics industry playing such a vital role in keeping the UK economy running, alarm bells are already ringing.
These growing concerns were reflected in the findings of our annual UK customer survey, which pinpointed the ongoing skills shortage as the most significant challenge faced by the logistics sector during 2018. Almost half of all respondents (46.4%) stated that the lack of drivers and other skilled workers across the industry was their biggest barrier to success, up by over a third (36.8%) when compared to the previous year’s results.
When pressed on what needed to be done to attract young talent, these logistics professionals pinpointed five key areas that need to be addressed to resolve the skills shortage:
The biggest issue that came out of the customer survey, with over a quarter of all responses, was the poor image of the industry and the impact it was having on bringing new blood into the sector. Many suggested that the sector needed to present itself as an “innovative industry that is embracing the latest technology”, while others felt that “logistics functions are largely unknown and unappreciated by the wider public”. Promoting the “modern side of transport technology and planning tools” or the “growing use of robots and drones” is certainly seen as one way of positioning the industry as cutting-edge and making it more appealing to younger people.
For many, simply increasing salaries represented the best way of attracting more young talent into the logistics business. A recurring theme within the survey was that “Wages [in the logistics sector] are simply not good enough for budding bright youngsters”, so something had to change to make it more competitive. Someone also suggested more “bonus-related incentives to reward successful candidates, especially for industry-specific apprentice schemes”.
Providing attractive career prospects, across all levels of potential entrants from school leavers to graduates and beyond, is seen as a way of “capturing people from a young age and getting them interested in a much needed but sometimes forgotten about sector”. One respondent felt that it was important for “entry-level workers to see the sector as offering proper careers that had a framework in place with recognised industry standards and qualifications”, while others pointed towards more apprenticeships, graduate training and “warehouse to wheels” schemes to attract a broad range of young people.
The survey highlighted a host of barriers that respondents believed were preventing younger people entering the sector. For drivers in particular, it was suggested the industry needed to improve the working environment to make the role more appealing. This could include “better working conditions and greater flexibility, with reduced hours, improved shift patterns and social enhancements” as well as greater investment in “better vehicles and fleet technology”. However, the cost of entering the driving sector was also highlighted as an issue, so more logistics operators “needed to offer to pay for license training” or the Government should introduce “more incentives/grants for new drivers”.
Finally, the respondents wanted more to be done to engage with schools, colleges and universities, to increase the visibility of “the range of jobs on offer and the scale of the remuneration available” and to “sell the logistics business to younger people”. Many felt that the industry needed to increase its influence within the education sector through greater careers advice, increased advertising or even by “running a large-scale competition and offering an attractive prize”.
As with other markets, the crisis is in part caused by the demographics of workers in the sector, with a large number of people approaching retirement age. When combined with the potential drop in EU workers over the next few years, the sector simply cannot wait for a solution, but neither can individual operators afford to invest in expensive schemes or campaigns.
Attracting young employees and providing apprenticeships that teach skills and offer progression for individuals that want it is something that we can all do, irrespective of whether your staff are drivers, planners, warehouse operatives or involved in other logistics-related roles. On top of this, investing in technology that streamlines your operation, improves customer service and makes the job easier for your staff is a win-win for everybody.
Whether you’re providing drivers with handheld devices with the latest proof of delivery functionality, using Live Management dashboards to communicate when deliveries are going to arrive or introducing electric vehicles into your fleet, technology can be a source of cost savings not just more costs to the bottom line.
If you can use your drivers and your vehicles more efficiently, drivers get more predictable working patterns and fuel costs are reduced. If your route planning takes less time than your transport planners can spend more time looking at how the operation can be optimised to save time and money. Naturally we can help you with that!
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