Logistics sector on 'cliff edge' as it faces 400,000 labour shortfall

7 February 2022

The logistics sector is expected to have worker shortages of 400,000 by 2026 due to low pay and unattractive working conditions, according to research. 

A report by City & Guilds found a mix of low pay, poor working conditions, and “the unique influences” of Brexit and coronavirus, mean the UK’s supply chains are seeing “employment challenges on a scale not seen for decades”.

The report, which included interviews with 10,000 workers from across the UK, found the country’s “labour market crisis is set to worsen in the years ahead without intervention”, with key sectors facing a “cliff edge”.

Only 23% of people said they would consider a job in logistics, and these figures dropped even further when respondents were asked if they would consider driving heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) for a living, with only 8% of people saying they would consider the role. 

Kirstie Donnelly, CEO at City & Guilds, said: “While the pandemic may have shone a light on the many jobs that are critical to the running of our country, our research demonstrates the undeniable fact that low salaries, unattractive or inflexible working conditions and a general lack of respect for these critical jobs is having a catastrophic impact on the ability of employers to fill these roles.

“In the face of a growing labour crisis that is impacting these vital industries and wider society, we need to collectively take a long, hard look at how we can make these jobs more attractive,” she said. 

The report also said critical industries including the food industry and construction sector were also heavily at risk of labour shortages.

It found a quarter of workers in the food processing industry said they planned to leave their positions within the year. 

Only 22% of people would consider jobs in the food processing industry, and just 7% of respondents said they would consider working specifically as a food or drink operator. 

Only 17% of people would consider working in construction, while only 7% of women would consider a job in the sector. 

Donnelly continued: “We need to address the poor image that is discouraging people from considering these roles by giving jobs the respect and remuneration they deserve in the future. With such fierce competition for talent, private companies are often offering much larger starting salaries, meaning that these essential industries, often in the public sector, just cannot compete.

“To fight back in the war on talent, government and employers need to work together to consider other ways to make essential jobs more attractive, including offering opportunities for skills development and more flexible working patterns.”

Logistics UK said apprenticeships were “essential” to tackle labour shortages and an ageing workforce. 

Alex Veitch, deputy director of public policy at Logistics UK, said: “With more than half of decision makers reporting that apprenticeships and work-based learning will be vital for the future of their organisation, maximising the opportunities afforded by apprenticeship schemes will be essential in overcoming the skills shortage faced in the logistics industry.”

Trudy Harrison, parliamentary under secretary of state at the Department for Transport, added: “Apprenticeships can open doors to fantastic and rewarding careers in logistics. They bring forward new talent to help build and maintain our resilient supply chains – keeping stock moving and supermarket shelves full.” 

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