Warehouse to wheels

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Joining up the thinking to mitigate the looming driver crisis.

There are more vacancies for Large Goods Vehicle drivers than there are people seeking a driving profession. This stark fact is part of the evidence presented in a new report produced by Skills for Logistics, which warns of a looming LGV driver shortage that could restrain the UK’s economic recovery.

It finds that fewer people are taking Large Goods Vehicle tests and over the last four years there has been a 31 per cent decline in the number of individuals passing their LGV test.

The problem is made more acute by the fact that, as the report highlights, 16 per cent of Large Goods Vehicle drivers are aged 60 or above, while just one per cent of employed drivers are under 25. Those retiring over the next five years will leave a potential replacement demand of 48,000 drivers. The report also goes on to find that many existing licence holders do not go on to pursue a career as a driver.

The driver shortage is not new but its effects were mitigated by the economic downturn.

Because more than 60 per cent of goods in Britain are moved on roads, which generated an annual turnover in 2010 of over £22bn, resolving this issue will be critical to avoid holding up much needed economic growth.

Clearly, more must be done to encourage recruits. When major retailers announce that they will be recruiting thousands as part of their next tranche of expansion, it is of course tremendous news – even in the best of times. In the middle of the UK’s current economic travails, such announcements are joyously welcomed, and quite rightly make headline news.

However, peer behind the headlines and you will see that many of these jobs are part time roles and offer little opportunity for progression. For some people, such part-time roles fit their lifestyle and child-care commitments but for many others there is a need and a willingness to work full-time.

The government is quite rightly placing great focus on youth unemployment and avoiding a lost generation of workless people. No matter what the standard of their education, they are unlikely to be work ready – why would they be? However, this in turn makes them relatively high risk for employers.

So at one end of a chain we have a looming shortage of Large Goods Vehicle drivers and at the other end, we have a host of young people who are not in education, employments or training (the so-called NEETS). How do we bring them together?

An answer surely has to be for logistics employers to move relatively experienced warehouse or administration staff from their warehouse to become LGV drivers. Depending on their age, this can be supported by a funded LGV Driving Apprenticeship.

That full-time warehouse or admin post can then be backfilled by recruiting from the large pool of part-timers working in retail and hospitality sectors, again supported by the relevant funded apprenticeship scheme.

In turn, those part-time posts can be offered to the inexperienced NEETS population who can gain their experience and employability skills in a controlled environment. This eases the route into employment for a very vulnerable part of the community.
Once into a full time post, Skills for Logistics’ Professional Development Stairway can then offer the new recruit a clear development path should they wish to pursue a career.

This potentially overcomes the fear that the Government’s work programme will lead to young people being put into a dead-end job without career prospects.

If we can pull it off, then there are lots of winners – the job seeker, the Logistics Sector and ultimately, the UK economy because of the critical need for Large Goods Vehicle (LGV) drivers to support economic growth. I wonder…

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