Setting the standards

Setting the standards

Head of Skills | Freight Transport Association

Without suitable apprenticeships standards against which to train recruits, the Apprenticeship Levy is nothing more than a secondary tax on the logistics sector. The FTA, the business organisation which represents the sector, is concerned that logistics businesses, which employ more than 2.5 million people and contribute over £121 billion to the nation’s Gross Value Added, will use vital funds which could be utilised to train the workforce of tomorrow. With a lack of suitable apprenticeship standards against which to train new employees and any unused levy funds due to be taken by the Treasury after two years of payment, wasting vital funds that could be used for training and development.

The Government urgently needs to consider other ways of allowing employers to utilise the funds they have paid into in the levy. Since April 2017, logistics businesses with annual payrolls of more than £3 million must pay 0.5% of their wage bill to the Apprentice Levy.

Businesses can then use these levy funds for apprenticeship training. In 2017-18, the National Audit Office report on the Apprenticeship Programme found that levy-paying employers from all sectors had only used 9% of funds available to them to pay for apprenticeships, because suitable standards were not available to them for the roles in which they were recruiting. Vital logistics apprenticeships are still to be approved by the Institute for Apprenticeships after more than two years in development, meaning that businesses which desperately need to recruit staff and train them cannot do so. 

Our members have expressed concerns with the existing need for skilled workers, emphasising they would like to use their levy funds to encourage young people into the sector. The focus solely on apprenticeships, and collection of the levy also currently ignores the other quality vocational training that could be utilised by businesses in logistics. Alternatively, the money could be used as an emergency fund to assist employers facing extreme skills shortages. FTA urges the Government to switch to a training levy, rather than dictating that it should be used solely for apprenticeships. 

Training is not a one-size-fits-all and businesses need to be able to train in the way that best suits them. However, if there were a number of suitable logistics apprenticeships available then these could be utilised. FTA, along with members of the logistics Trailblazer group, are working hard to develop these standards but this is being hampered by an institution that doesn’t understand the unique nature of our training needs.   

Without the reallocation of funds, logistics businesses will not be able to upskill UK employees in the absence of appropriate standards, and with the potential loss of EU workers after Brexit, the skills shortage in logistics, as in many other sectors, will become severe once the UK leaves the EU. In a recent report by the International Road Transport Union (IRU) found that the European Road Transport sector is facing “the most acute professional driver shortage in decades”. The IRU report, based on insight from stakeholders across the European transport industry and two surveys, revealed a driver shortage of 21 per cent in the freight transport sector across the continent, reinforcing FTA’s concerns for the future recruitment of the UK’s workforce. 

FTA’s own research backs up the findings of the IRU: the most recent Logistics Report, published in 2018, found that there are currently 52,000 vacancies for HGV drivers in the UK alone. With the added prospect of losing almost a quarter of a million European logistics workers post-Brexit, the shortage could reach catastrophic levels. From HGV drivers to warehouse staff, the UK economy simply cannot operate without the logistics workforce – businesses would come to a grinding halt and the UK would cease trading. 

The FTA continues to campaign on behalf of its members to help attract a diverse workforce to the sector, by pushing government to improve the treatment of drivers, upgrading enough infrastructure and facilities to ensure that the sector is seen as an attractive, appealing industry that is aspirational. With an ageing workforce, FTA is keen to attract new, younger entrants to the marketplace, and is working with member organisations to highlight the opportunities that the industry offers for the younger generation, with meaningful roles and clear job progressions available to all entrants.    

The FTA has established a partnership with charity Think Logistics, part of Career Ready, to build links between schools, colleges and employers. These links emphasise and identify opportunities for young people to progress into the sector and highlight the variety of roles which they can take up. Logistics as a sector is at the heart of every facet of British life, from hospitals to business, retail and manufacturing. It is vitally important that the next generation of logistics workers is recruited and trained efficiently to keep the nation trading, and the responsibility of all those currently working in the industry to assist in changing perceptions of one of the country’s great success stories.

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Case study: Emily Clark – Apprentice Civil Engineer at PD Ports

Emily enrolled at Bede Sixth Form College, part of Stockton Riverside College, with the intention of pursuing a career in architecture. However, as her first year progressed, Emily gained an insight into the scope and scale of the logistics sector, and revised her ambition towards a career in engineering, which led her to a four-week internship with PD Ports.

During her placement, she spent time learning about various areas and roles such as mechanical, electrical and civil engineering, manpower planning and stores operations. Following the internship, in March 2018, Emily received her Career Academy Certificate. She started a two-year Civil engineering Apprenticeship at PD Ports, which incorporates a two-year part time HNC course at Teesside University which leads to a masters’ degree in civil engineering.  

Jim French, Director, Portcentric Logistics commented, “Placements are invaluable to our business and are a great way to retain the very best emerging talent, whilst providing the young people with meaningful experiences and exciting career opportunities. Our industry suffers from a poor perception. We want to dispel some of the myths that prevent young people looking to logistics as a career and show them there are no barriers to progression provided they bring a positive attitude and commitment to learning.”

Case study: Jacqueline O’Donovan – Managing Director of O’Donovan Waste Disposal

Jacqueline’s career in the waste industry began following her father’s sudden death when she was just 17. She began working with her siblings in the (then) small family waste management business. It was a steep learning curve, but her passion and determination became evident when she took the role of Managing Director at 19. Since then, Jacqueline has used her leadership skills and commercial acumen to grow O'Donovan from a firm with a turnover of £175k into a successful multi-million pound operation.

Jacqueline has focused her time and dedication to the needs of hauliers, and the waste and construction industries, to help improve safety standards on the roads. Her hard work has been recognised with several respected fellowships and accolades in the sector. In December 2018, she was named as Business Woman of the Year at the SME National Business Awards.

Ms O’Donovan said: “The logistics industry needs to push for change and help young people at school and college to realise the range of exciting career opportunities available to them within the sector – after all, it is the fifth largest contributor to the economy. In a sector that is crying out for skilled workers. The logistics industry is an interesting and varied career choice and training, apprenticeships and job opportunities exist right across the industry for them to take up.”