The logistics industry has a major staff shortage problem, particularly with regards to transport. With the whole industry worth nearly £80bn to the UK economy, it is vital that this problem is solved and solved quickly. While many initiatives have been created over the past few years to alleviate this issue by industry leaders and the government, have they done enough?
One of the most effective initiatives has been the City of Liverpool College Logistics Academy. The Academy has received significant support from passenger transport authority Merseytravel, and logistics is regarded as one of Liverpool’s key growth areas.
The sector already employs over 190,000 people across the North West alone. As of June 2016, this ground breaking training academy has equipped 700 previously unemployed people with brand new skills to enter into the logistics industry, from heavy goods vehicle driving to logistics administration. Of this number, it’s believed that over half are already in employment within this sector, working for companies that include IKEA, Yodel and many local coach and bus companies, with many more in apprenticeship schemes.
Providing people with the skills to work in the logistics industry is simply not enough, however. A report carried out previously his summer by the House of Commons Transport Committee has found that existing measures like the Academy are simply not enough to generate more employment within the logistics industry. The shortage doesn’t lie in a shortage of people with the skills to work in the industry but with a shortage of people who actually want to work in the industry, particularly as drivers. There is no single reason behind the shortage, but simply a combination of factors that make these jobs “less attractive” than they were.
So this is the main problem facing logistics industry leaders: they have to make the industry more appealing to work in. This has never been more true than with the recent Brexit vote. The UK is becoming a relatively less attractive place for foreign workers to seek employment, and in the past years the logistics industry has been dependent on these foreign workers. A large part of this unwillingness of people to work in the industry is due to a large number of roles being shift based, which doesn’t appeal to everyone, and a stagnancy in pay, despite the rising cost of living.
Committee chair Louise Ellman MP has noted that these are not new challenges to the industry, and it is now the responsibility of all involved to be “improving the image of the profession, revisiting pay and conditions and providing proper and secure facilities at depots and on the roadside.” All of this is especially more important if more women are to be recruited into the industry. Perhaps the government needs to consider directing funding directly to transport companies to encourage, not just apprentices, but also training and upskilling current employees to promote career progression as an incentive for working within the logistics industry.
While it’s certainly true that the staff shortage in the logistics industry won’t be addressed overnight, there are many possible ways for both the government and industry leaders to help encourage employment within the sector. Whether offering better pay and working conditions, or the opportunities to upskill and undergo training in new areas of the industry, there is a multitude of solutions to this decade-old problem.