Accelerating women into driving careers

The UK’s driving and logistics sector has long been facing a dramatic talent shortage. Even before the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the industry was facing a ‘perfect storm’ of factors contributing to this deficit. A rising reliance on e-commerce and delivery services, an ageing work population, a lack of industry appeal to younger workers, and the impact of Brexit on immigration have all raised drivers to one of the UK’s most sought-after skillsets. Logistics UK now estimates the UK industry shortfall to be at around 59,000 workers, and our latest Talent Shortage Survey found driving to be among the top ten hardest skills to find.

At Manpower we were eager to take action to tackle this shortage. In 2019, we launched our Driver Academy, a specialist programme where aspiring drivers can get the training expertise needed to launch a driving career safely, coupled with employment support and access to industry-leading clients. Working with the UK’s leading driver training provider, we have now helped launch the driving careers of thousands of individuals.

But we also recognise that there are other factors contributing to the driver shortfall. Not least the fact that female participation in the UK driving workforce is woefully underrepresented. We believe that supporting women into the logistics sector and promoting a broader diversity agenda is critical to solving the UK’s driving skills shortage. Not only will this allow businesses to draw from the widest possible pool of talent, it can also impact the bottom line. Research from PwC shows a link between a more gender-balanced workforce in logistics and higher financial returns.

That’s why, with the support of government, client partners and industry bodies, we are launching our new Women in Driving Scholarship. We are committing to put a cohort of carefully selected female individuals through our established Manpower Driver Academy programme, where they will progress through the necessary training, certification, mentoring and work experience to enable them to launch a successful career as a fully licenced LGV driver.

But if you’re reading this as a female, you could be forgiven for thinking the role of LGV Driver is not for you. Historically only 1% of all registered lorry drivers in the UK have been female – the vast majority of drivers are still male, with the average age being around 48 years old. There are also many preconceptions about the industry – that immense physical strength is requirement of the job, or that sexism is widespread among the driving workforce. But while there is still work to be done, the reality is that the haulage industry is changing – women are increasingly entering the sector and are challenging the stereotypes surrounding it.

Chloe Kendrick, one of our recent Driver Academy graduates, says: “It’s understandable a female wanting to work in a male-dominated environment doesn’t seem the ideal thing, but it’s a change that I really needed. Manpower found me the ideal Class 2 role, from which I’m able to progress through to my Class 1. At first it was a worry if I’d ‘fit in’, but almost two months down the line I wouldn’t change it for the world. I’ve experienced the highs and lows, travelled most of the UK and I love it.”

We’ve seen first-hand how entrants to the Academy can build up their driving capabilities and bridge into new roles in logistics. Now, by committing to supporting more women through this programme, as well as actively promoting the benefits that a career in driving can offer, we hope to help create a new pipeline of driving talent for our clients. We firmly believe the expansion of the female workforce in driving will help to bring about the significant impact the sector desperately needs.

We’re actively looking for employers to get involved with our Women in Driving Scholarship initiative. To find out more or to have a discussion with us, please get in touch.