We often hear about the shortage of skilled workers in the logistics industry and nowhere is this more evident than in the critical lack of qualified drivers for our sector.

Yes, to secure the future of our industry we must recruit a younger workforce. And so often in business, as in most of life, there are different strategies that can be used in parallel. It’s not a matter of either/or but rather both/and. The number of apprentices in the 45 to 59 age bracket has increased more than 400% since 2009 and now counts for almost 42,000 apprentices, nearly 10% of those on paid training schemes.

Among those over 60, the numbers are even more striking.

We need to position our industry to take advantage of this trend. A recent report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Freight Transport published in January was entitled Barriers to Youth Employment in the Freight Transport Sector. Its research found that just 2% of all HGV drivers are under the age of 25, with 60% over 45.

In fact, as Robert Flello (MP for Stoke-on-Trent South and committee chairman) remarks, “there are more MDs in transport and distribution businesses who are under 25 than there are HGV drivers”.

As we look to creative and comprehensive strategies to tackle this huge gap, we need to take advantage of strengths we do have in our industry. Yes, we do have a mature workforce – and we can use that to attract experienced workers from industries that are looking for a career change, whatever their age.

As the national apprenticeship guide states: “An apprenticeship is a journey – from being a novice in a role to becoming an expert.” And as many of us know, the desire and confidence to undertake a new journey may be even greater aged 50+ than it was at 18. A case in point is Barclays, which has recently been in the news with its recruitment of mature workers through offering apprenticeships in various aspects of banking and administrative operations for those aged over 50.

As we think about the specific challenges of recruiting more HGV drivers across our industry, there are lots of additional benefits that mature applicants can offer. Insurance costs are significantly lower than for those under 25 and, as a recent KMPG report notes, “more and more companies recognise the high value of older workers’ knowledge and skills”.

We keep telling young people that apprenticeships are a great pathway to get hands-on vocational experience in a vibrant industry that’s vital to our economy.

If banking and other sectors can tailor apprenticeship programmes for those aged 50+, then why not logistics? Why not share this opportunity wider and see who takes up the challenge?

Logistics Job Shop ID 2013

David Coombes is MD of Logistics Job Shop

Tel: 0117 9859 119