Labour shortages2

The logistics sector has been offered expert advice on how to attract and develop a new and more diverse workforce after the FTA’s annual Skills Report revealed the driver shortage figure has risen to 59,000 from 52,000 in 2018.

Speaking at the 2019 Labour Shortages Conference in Birmingham on 29 October, FTA head of skills and Welsh policy Sally Gilson said the “driver crisis” first identified back in 2015 was worsening and that urgent measures were now needed to tackle the situation.

“We’re heading for a perfect storm,” Gilson told delegates. “Many Polish workers have left. We’re still getting Bulgarians and Romanians coming over but we’re seeing lower numbers. Future immigration policy would seriously disadvantage non-UK recruitment. A significant number of drivers are also retiring.”

Gilson also pointed to the lack of diversity in the sector, with the report revealing 89% of workers in the sector are white and 87% are male.

Only 1% of HGV drivers are female.

She also repeated her plea for the government’s Apprenticeship Levy to be changed to a skills levy.

“We’ve been campaigning for it,” she said. “Vocational training has its place and is just as important as any apprenticeship or university but it’s firmly shut out of funding. Part time people etc are all shut out because they’re not necessarily fitting into the 12-month apprenticeship criteria. So we need to expand on that and make it a skills levy.

“What we also need is better career advice in schools and the promotion of vocational qualifications. We need people who can go into schools and talk passionately about logistics and we need continued access to non-UK workers.”

Responding to Gilson’s concerns, speaker Ruth Edwards, business development director at Talent in Logistics, proposed a series of steps to help “change perceptions” of the logistics sector and “attract more young talent”.

“Review your employer branding,” she advised. “Our people strategies as employers are really important. We need to think about the language we use when we’re promoting jobs, our image when we advertise ourselves and how we get involved in our communities.

"We also need to think about how we’re vocalising our environmental strategies. For young people that’s really important - as is flexible working. Logistics is surely one sector that can do that?"

Edwards also urged delegates to champion the benefits of working in the logistics sector despite often negative media coverage.

“If we’re not proud to work in sectors like this, nobody will be,” she said. “The whole idea of falling into logistics is not a good one. I didn’t choose to go into logistics but I didn’t fall into it. I saw a job when I left university and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it ever since. By saying we fell into it is doing ourselves an injustice.”

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Edwards advised hauliers to market themselves against competing sectors that are offering similar entry-level jobs, “not just organisations in the same space”.

She also urged them to do more to "showcase" roles within their businesses more attractively.

“It’s a great thing for us to start doing more of,” she said. “Show ‘day in the life’ videos. Young people want to see people their age doing the job.

“There are also loads of TV shows going on at the moment that really showcase what our sector is and what we’re about. For example What Britain Buys and Sells In A Day with Ed Balls. He talks about the docks, the trucks coming in and taking the goods away, supply and demand - how we do all that as a country. If anything is going to teach a child about logistics it’s a programme like that and it’s a great thing to do.

“Then there’s Greg Wallace and his Inside The Factory programmes showing manufacturing and logistics. Seeing those operations will bring it to life. It’s no good just talking about it. We need to share it. Share it on social media or with your children. It would be fantastic."

Another often overlooked way to “engage and educate” young people is social media, Edwards continued, with Instagram and YouTube their top choices.

She also advised the sector to spread its net to the services, mothers returning from maternity leave and those close to retirement age.

"Think about who you're trying to attract and market specifically to them," she said. "Think about a good campaign you could run for them."

Adam Waters, director of digital content with British Forces Broadcasting, recommended a targeted approach to recruitment via social media.

"Become a member of a local Facebook group," he said. “If you’re trying to recruit people from a particular local area you don’t have to be in that area, but rather than pumping stuff out on Twitter or having a Facebook page think about going into these groups. They can be extremely powerful.

"WhatsApp also has a really helpful feature - if you click the settings, you can find 'new broadcast', which acts like a newsletter. WhatsApp is a really good tool because people very quickly share pictures and updates with their friends and family and with the broadcast feature they can potentially share some quite interesting things."

Waters concluded by sharing his top tips for using social media to recruit new talent: "Think about who your target audience is, the right social networks to be on and measure the effect," he advised. "If you’re working with an agency really hold them to account. What is the number you really want?

"And a really good way to write good social media posts is to read them out aloud before you send them. Make them sound human. What doesn't work well is corporate speak and jargon, and I’m sure the logistics industry has some classics.

"It’s quite easy to have assumed knowledge or use clunky industry terms. Even if you’re sending posts from an organisation, a human tone of voice is so very important.”