3 ways logistics employers should respond to Brexit
For logistics employers in particular, the result of the referendum hit them hard. It’s an industry which has a significant reliance on non-UK talent, with EU workers making up 10% of the logistics workforce. At the same time, a number of demographic and talent challenges have already created a significant lack of skills in this sector. Today, there is a shortage of over 35,000 drivers; any reduction in the number of EU drivers will exacerbate these current pressures even further.
At this stage, we cannot be sure exactly how Brexit will affect future talent availability in the logistics sector. However, we can focus on alleviating existing pressures and unleashing the potential of previously untapped talent pools. This will ensure the sector is well-positioned for whatever lies ahead. Here are three things the industry needs to do:
Employers, industry bodies and the Government must work together
With the eyes of the world on the UK and Europe, employers, industry bodies and the Government must work together to promote the attractiveness of the UK as a labour destination.
The free flow of labour is one of the fundamental principles of the European Union. So greater clarity is needed, quickly, over what the Brexit immigration restrictions will mean. This is particularly important for the driving and logistics sector, which relies heavily on skilled and unskilled EU workers.
Early communication to provide certainty will allow employers to plan accordingly. At Manpower, we’ve already been liaising with the Home Affairs Committee to voice our concerns, and we will continue to keep in dialogue with them in the months and years to come.
Embrace the Skills Revolution
As digitisation continues to gather pace, the value placed on skills will change. Skills that are in demand today may not hold the same value in the future. And, in the years to come, new competency requirements will emerge too. A clear example of this is the great strides that have been made with driverless cars, which has the ability to have a significant impact on the value of driving skills. Going forwards, it’s vital that employers future-proof their workforce by nurturing the ‘learnability’ of their employees – their desire and ability to quickly grow and adapt their skill set to remain employable and relevant throughout their working life.
In the driving and logistics sector, nurturing learnability could take a number of forms. One way is through the Apprenticeship Levy, which logistics employers can use to invest in the training of future talent, as well as to upskill and retrain existing workers.
Driving traineeships are another option. We’ve developed a concept where we employ drivers who we then place on assignment with logistics employers, allowing them to gain industry experience through traineeships. We’re working with a number of organisations to test and refine this model, and we believe this will be a great way to attract and upskill further talent.
Finally, securing a licence is expensive; so cost can be a major barrier for people wanting to enter the sector. That’s why we pay for around 300 drivers to secure their licences every year, to ensure rising costs aren’t prohibitive. If others followed suit and supported drivers in this way, the cost burden would soon be eased.
Focus on industry awareness and diversity
As businesses, we all have a responsibility to ensure we are a positive contributor to the communities in which we operate. Employers need to embrace and promote diversity, to drive sustainability and employability for the long term. It’s not just the right thing to do, it makes clear business sense – allowing businesses to harness previously untapped talent pools.
The ageing logistics workforce is one area that needs to be addressed. Only 2% of employed drivers are aged 25 or under, compared to 12% of the total employed population. At the same time, the average age of LGV drivers is 47.9 years old. So – as drivers reach retirement age – there aren’t enough young people to replace them.
Part of the reason for this is a focus on universities as a destination for school leavers, rather than on vocational training and courses. As an industry, it’s important that we promote the diverse opportunities that are available in the sector to young people. It’s one of the reasons why Manpower is a supporter of Think Logistics; attending and speaking at a number of events every year to promote diversity and raise awareness of the long-term career opportunities that are available within driving.
Increasing female participation in logistics should also be a priority. Currently, women make up just 20% of the logistics workforce. However, women consistently achieve a higher pass rate for the practical LGV test than men – with 58% of females passing the test compared to 55% of male test takers.
Breaking down an entrenched male culture is critical, if we’re to attract more women into the industry. We’re doing our part at Manpower; through a pilot we’re operating to attract 150 Cat B drivers for one of our clients – where we aim for at least 35% to be female. We urge other employers, educational institutions and industry bodies to take a similar approach, and make a concerted effort to attract a wider talent pool.
Now is the time to knuckle down and invest in workforce strategies that will alleviate pre-existing demographic and talent pressures. Doing so will ensure the industry is well-placed for a post-Brexit United Kingdom.