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The impact of Covid: Logistics skills high on the agenda

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​There’s certainly no doubt that Covid-19 has impacted the world of logistics. There were certainly moments during the early stages of lockdown where concerns were raised as to how well the industry would fare. However, the sector was arguably less impacted than others. In fact, in some instances, the pandemic has helped improve the reputation of the arena as the wider public became acutely aware of the crucial role it plays in keeping Britain – and the world – moving. But there’s a new challenge facing businesses now: finding the right logistics skills, and keeping them.

A long-standing skills challenge across logistics

It’s no secret that logistics has faced a skills shortage for a while now, and it was certainly top of the agenda for many firms prior to the coronavirus outbreak. In fact, just last year the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) released a report with Statista that revealed some rather concerning data. According to the 2019 UK Logistics Monitor, over half (54%) of logistics companies were expecting to see an increase in skills shortages over a five year period.

The top three reasons cited for this dearth of talent were a lack of job-specific skills (referenced by 42% of respondents), a lack of work experience (29%) and low wages (25%). In terms of the specific roles that businesses were expecting to struggle to source, software engineers, project managers and executives were predicted to be in high demand but low supply. But it is the tech-specific roles that many felt would be the most difficult to fill.

According to the report, 23% of logistics organisations felt that recruiting tech talent is ‘problematic’ and only possible with ‘considerable effort’.

Cross-sector job moves

Covid-19 arguably alleviated some of these shortages, temporarily at least, as those displaced by the pandemic sought work in other industries that were still hiring. And logistics certainly fell into the latter category. According to recent research from Totaljobs, 7% of the workforce have already switched to a new industry as a result of Covid. And more career moves are on the cards, with the research further revealing that one in five employees are currently considering a future in a different industry. And logistics is one of the areas that is considered popular for those seeking new job security, after all, the pandemic certainly highlighted the resilience of the industry.

Considering the above-mentioned elements that are impacting skills shortages, this change in attitudes towards the sector could certainly help overcome the barrier that low wages has had on generating interest in working in the field and, perhaps more importantly, help attract the tech talent that logistics needs.

However, while this is good news, it does also throw up a few new challenges. In the first instance, it’s crucial that employers make the most of the continued positive public sentiment before it loses momentum. Looking beyond the usual channels for new recruits and identifying transferable skills from other industries will certainly help keep this new-found respect for logistics front of mind as a career of choice.

Focusing on cultural fit of these individuals will also be increasingly important in this new environment. Without the experience or training that you’d normally expect from a candidate, it’s important to know that a new hire will at least fit in with the rest of the business. If they ‘gel’ with your company, its visions and its values, then training the technical side of the role will be much easier.

And that leads us quite nicely into the third challenge that logistics employers are facing: an increased need to train and grow the skills they need. Staff development is naturally a key part of the sector, but with more applicants from beyond the logistics arena looking to make a move into the field, there will be a higher demand for skills training.

Trade association launches for logistics training providers

With this in mind, it’s perhaps no surprise to learn that a new independent trade association was launched last month to bring together specialist logistics training providers across the UK. The Logistics Skills Network – a collaboration between Skills for Logistics (SfL) and leading training provider in the logistics field, Mantra Learning – will work with government organisations and industry leaders to ‘develop and share best practices, knowledge, experience and resources, and offer a communication platform for the coordination of collective interests.’

One of the co-founders of the trade association, and chief executive of SfL commented on the news:

“Vocational training has never been properly represented in logistics. This allows us to be a collective voice with lots of training providers working together and will enhance how we’re seen and allow us to properly represent the training industry.

"The issue for me and the founders is that the training is very disparate with limited regulation. You have no real national providers, it’s all regional or local. We need a body to properly promote and deal with the government and the DVSA, but also a body that allows training providers to appreciate what they should be doing in this post-Covid world. And without wishing to dismiss what they do, to professionalise them."

Finding the logistics skills you need in a post-Covid world

It’s certainly been a tough few months and continued uncertainty remains on the horizon for us all as reports of an increase in Covid cases continues to plague the news. However, for logistics employers, there are some glimmers of light in amongst the chaos. We could be at a pivotal point for the sector in terms of skills and talent, but it will take an investment in training and development – not to mention expert collaboration to find transferrable skills from beyond the logistics arena.

Here at WR Logistics, our team of experts have extensive experience working with employers to find the right people for their business. If you’re seeking your next hire why not contact the team to find out more about how we can help your firm, including behavioural assessments and comprehensive on-boarding that’s designed to cut costs for your business. In fact, we’re so confident in what we do that we offer a 12-month replacement guarantee should a candidate leave. So, what have you got to lose? Contact us today.