Employment agency Manpower has told hauliers struggling to fill job vacancies that the problem will only get worse unless they change their workforce strategies.

Speaking at the FTA’s Labour Shortages Conference in Birmingham on 29 October, the company’s operations director Jason Greaves said operators should rest their recruitment policy on four key pillars – “build, buy, borrow and bridge.”

“Build is the key workforce strategy that every organisation needs to invest in," he explained. "Invest in that individual. Give them the programme they want.

"We surveyed 5,000 employees and found they wanted to learn how the organisation they were placed in was going to develop them; they wanted to know about the culture and behaviour of the business.

“In 2010 we found only 21% of businesses had investment plans for their workforce. Our latest report says 84% are trying to build future talent. The question is, what are the other 16% doing?

“So consider how you can attract that talent. How are you going to invest in your workforce. ‘Build’ is the one thing you can change in this, or any other, sector that has a talent shortage.

“It’s only going to get worse and we’ve got to solve it. The perception at the moment is that the industry is full of male, stale, pale people.”

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Back in April, Manpower launched a Driver Academy in association with Specialised Training Services (STS) which it hopes will bring 400 newly-qualified drivers a year into the industry.

However, for the moment the scheme is self-funded and costs an individual several thousand pounds, raising concerns that many potential drivers will be dissuaded from joining.

“The individual funds it for themselves,” Greaves admitted. “STS has a financial support package to help them through the process. But I agree with [FTA head of skills] Sally Gilson that there is more the government can do above and beyond apprenticeships to help people skill train.

“I think self-funding will put people off who’ll say they can’t afford it. There's no two ways about it. But we are hopeful that two of the organisations we work with are looking at funding people through, which would be a breakthrough. But I absolutely think more help is needed for people to upskill themselves."

Greaves also warned that new legislation would lead to further job shortages in the logistics sector going forward.

In particular, he pointed to the tax implications of changes to the rules surrounding IR35, which HMRC has said will expose “hidden employees”. From April 2020 it will be the client that decides if a contractor is inside or outside IR35, again raising fears of an impact on workers within the logistics sector.

"That is going to cause a further skills shortage next year and that could be thousands of people," Greaves claimed.

"And the other thing is driver CPC – there seems to be a drop out. People don’t want to go through that. We need to sort this out and we need to do it together."