Win-win for skills

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Johanna Parsons writes: Recruiting staff into logistics roles is not always the easiest of tasks, but now there is an innovative scheme from the Prince’s Trust, Get into Logistics, which offers targeted schemes to help disadvantaged youngsters develop careers in the industry, and potentially addresses skills shortages at the same time.

According to the Office for National Statistics, for every job vacancy in the UK there are 5.6 people unemployed, and yet the logistics sector is facing a shortage of skilled workers. The Prince’s Trust has locked in on this, and has set up the programme to provide a foot in the door, and practical experience of the sector.

The scheme is at the heart of the charity’s focus on helping the million or so young people in the UK who are currently not in education, employment or training. Together with similar schemes focusing on the construction, hospitality and catering industries, it is joining the dots between these young people and our emerging skills gap.

Its latest programme was run with Waitrose which provided eight “buddies” from its staff across different departments to run the day-to-day training. A spokesperson from Waitrose says that it gets enormous value from the scheme, finding that general levels of employee engagement and loyalty rise as a result of the programme. In particular, the mentoring aspect of the training develops management skills, and personal job satisfaction for the participating buddies.

Get into Logistics programmes run for between two to four weeks. They give vocational training, and teach industry specific skills such as picking, packing, loading and unloading. They provide a stint of formally acknowledged work experience that evidences the commitment of young people who may not have previous experience or qualifications.

Programmes include intensive on-site training, allowing participants to build real skills, and gain recognised qualifications. As well as learning about how to do certain tasks, young participants also gain an understanding of just how diverse jobs within logistics can be.

For the next steps, they are also given inside advice on how to write a suitable CV, and how to prepare for a job interview, as well as follow up mentoring support to help guide them into full-time employment. But experience is nothing without the opportunity to capitalise on it. The Trust has targeted sectors like logistics, where there are many jobs available, and with a high proportion of entry level roles, to give candidates the best chance of finding a job when the course finishes.

From the trust’s point of view, its candidates and the sector are mutually suited. The hands-on approach works well for many of the young people who have struggled with classroom-based learning. Lucy Walford, senior head of programmes at the Prince’s Trust, said: “The young people we help on ‘Get into’ courses are ‘work ready’ but many do not have the formal qualifications, so the fact that many logistics roles require practical rather than academic skills is an advantage.”

Since 2007 the trust has run 31 programmes with various industry employers, including Shoe Zone, QVC, Waitrose, Babcock, Norbert Dentressangle and DHL, which has hosted 15 and has three more planned for the next year.

Other benefits for companies hosting the scheme are that it helps achieve corporate social responsibility objectives, and also widens the recruitment pool.

This is significant, because with its abundance of physical work, and difficult shift patterns, getting people into logistics is one of the industry’s big challenges. Research from Skills for Logistics has found “major skills shortages” for HGV drivers, junior and middle managers. Linking up with the scheme can put firms in touch with keen workers who might otherwise struggle to find employment, but it also spreads the word of the potential of the logistics sector to new audiences.

The course of the scheme itself also offers an opportunity for companies to develop skills in promising youngsters specifically for work in their organisation.

Throughout the history of the Get Into Logistics schemes many of its trainees have subsequently found work with the participating employer, and some have been offered jobs during the course. With the shortage of skilled workers in our sector, and high unemployment in the UK, Get into Logistics offers a win-win, filling the skills gap with an enthusiastic young work force for the future.

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Logistics Manager, December 2011

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