Supporting the development of skills and training in logistics. By Patrick Henry

In the UK alone, 2.2 million people are employed in logistics – around eight per cent of the workforce. It’s an industry worth over £90 billion per year and growing, and the number employed is set to increase. In fact, another 1.2 million new people will be required by 2022. However the sector is finding it hard to attract the new entrants it needs and skills shortages are beginning to appear.*

This, in turn, is presenting an obvious and growing concern for many manufacturers. Whether they run their own logistics or outsource to third parties, every manufacturing business depends upon efficient and costeffective transport and logistics to receive raw materials and packaging and to deliver finished goods to market. So what are the key recruitment and training challenges in logistics and how can we work together to address them?

Attracting young people…
The workforce, in many logistics roles, is ageing. In fact just nine per cent of the current logistics workforce is aged under 25, with half aged over 45*. There’s also a lack of diversity when it comes to gender – with less than a quarter of workers being female**. So finding ways to attract young people, and especially young women, into the logistics sector is vital. If we fail to do so, the wheels of industry might literally grind to a halt!

Research has found that the most common reason for the struggle to attract young people to the sector is a lack of awareness of the opportunities available. And that’s hardly surprising if you think about it – logistics often takes place behind security fences, inside warehouses, at the dockside, out of view. If people do spare a thought for logistics they tend to think it’s simply about truck driving.

It would be easy to blame the predicament we find ourselves in on poor careers advice and guidance. And it’s true that understanding, in schools and colleges, of the opportunities available in our sector could be improved. But it’s far more complex problem than that.

Even on the inside there’s a lack of understanding about the wide range of jobs available, potential career paths and progression routes. If someone is working in a manufacturers’ warehouse, for example, would they consider themselves to be working in logistics or manufacturing? Would they think of training to be an LGV driver, or working towards a more advanced role in the supply chain?

And this leads to a second key point. The problems we face are not limited simply to the recruitment of young people to the sector. There are significant skills gaps and shortages in the current logistics workforce, across every sector and at every level. Set this against record investment in our transport infrastructure, and it’s clear that we need to do things differently.

A fresh approach to apprenticeships…
The good news is that all of this is high on the Government’s agenda and articulated clearly in a new report – Transport Infrastructure – Skills Strategy: building sustainable skills. It sets out the challenge we face very clearly, and calls upon government, employers, professional organisations and educational establishments to work together to effect real change.

It outlines ambitious targets, for example, for the trebling of apprenticeships in the transport and logistics sector, and explains that these will be available to mid-career changers, returners to work and the existing workforce, as well as young people.

It calls upon employers to get involved in the development of new apprenticeship standards, where it is agreed they would be of benefit, and the introduction of the ‘Apprenticeship Levy’ from April 2017 should provide a powerful incentive for them to do so. This 0.5 per cent contribution will be paid by employers with payrolls over £3 million. Its aim is to support the creation of new apprenticeships and improve the quality training provided by putting employers at the centre of the system.

In the run up to the introduction of the Levy, apprenticeship courses are being developed and reviewed by ‘Trailblazers’ – sector-specific industry groups, comprising a minimum of ten businesses, set up for the purpose. The logistics sector Trailblazer has identified the need for three new apprenticeships areas: warehouse and distribution, drivers and administrators and those dealing with freight forwarding, importing and exporting.

Work is progressing well and when complete, the new courses will be put before BIS – the Government standard for training – before being given the green light. If successful, they will attract new funding and the new apprenticeships will go ahead.

Getting lots of things right…
The development of new apprenticeships alone, however, will not solve the problem. We need to work together to make the sector more visible to potential recruits. Part of that will be to support those that offer advice and guidance to young people about our sector to provide a more rounded picture. We must also invest in high quality, specialist training provision and facilities.

Modal Training, the £7 million project I’m currently working on, is a great example. Jointly funded by the Grimsby Institute Group and the Humber LEP, when it opens in September this year, it will be the UK’s first multi-modal logistics training provider. Our facilities will include state-of-the-art simulators for maritime crew, truck drivers and crane operators; warehousing, engineering and rail safety training facilities and the UK’s only freight forwarding academy.

The idea of having everything under one roof is to centralise training support for businesses who have more than one requirement, or who are part of a supply chain with multimodal disciplines that need more consistency and connectivity between them. It’s also designed to help individuals acquire the multi-disciplinary advanced skills they need to succeed in our rapidly evolving sector.

So there you have it. We have a huge challenge, but an even greater opportunity. By working together in new and imaginative ways, I think that we can succeed.

Patrick Henry
Patrick Henry is CEO of Modal Training. Modal Training is a new £7million centre of excellence for the ports, energy and logistics sector, providing integrated, multimodal logistics training for sea, road, rail and air. Jointly funded by the Grimsby Institute Group and the Humber LEP, Modal Training is based in Immingham, North East Lincolnshire, in a purpose-designed 5,696m2 facility, it is set to open in September 2016.

* Figures taken from UK Commission for Employment and Skills report on Understanding skills and performance challenges in the logistics sector – October 2014
** Figures taken from the Department for Transport: Transport Infrastructure Skills Strategy: building sustainable skills.