Businesses must lead on creating an “industry of choice” for diverse talent, says Government report

Businesses must lead on creating an “industry of choice” for diverse talent, says Government report

The long awaited ‘Future of Freight: a long-term plan’ was released by the Department for Transport (DfT) in June 2022. The report sets out the starting point for Government-industry collaboration going forward in a bid to address the key challenges facing the transport and logistics industry. For those responsible for attracting, engaging, and developing talent, there are a number of key takeaways which we summarise in this article.

The Future of Freight plan priorities set out in the report are:

  • National Freight Network
  • Enabling the transition to Net Zero
  • Planning
  • People and skills
  • Data and technology

The report’s ministerial foreword from Trudy Harrison MP makes clear that the top two items are the main concern, stating: “Our most pressing national priorities: from building back after the pandemic and levelling up, to reducing our greenhouse emissions, all rely on the freight sector.”

However, the report also recognises the vital role that people will play in the recovery of the industry. The focus of the ‘People and Skills’ plan shows a particular commitment to working with the freight and transport industry to strengthen its longer-term employment and skills offer and ‘reset the sector’s image.’

The new plan acknowledges that “getting people in place with the right skills is key to not only resilience in the sector but also the economy as a whole.” It cites that severe post-Covid/BREXIT HGV/LGV driver shortage was indicative of a longer-term issue, which the new plan aims to resolve.

In short, the aim is to “Produce a pipeline of talent across the freight sector by improving the training and employment options; addressing awareness and negative perceptions of the industry; and promote the availability of attractive, fulfilling jobs at all levels of the industry.”

It is suggested that the industry will need to lead this, with the Government’s collaboration and support. There are five key parts to the plan.

Deliver Generation Logistics campaign in 2022

Work has already begun on the forthcoming ‘Generation Logistics’ campaign to address the industry’s image and raise awareness of the breadth of career options across freight and logistics.

DfT, in partnership with Logistics UK and the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT), will deliver an industry led campaign to provide greater visibility of the industry, shift perceptions, improve diversity, and address recruitment gaps. The Generation Logistics campaign aims to increase awareness by 25%, and positive sentiment by 40% in the first 12 months.

As we know at Talent in Logistics, encouraging the next generation of logistics workers is key, so it is timely that this will also be part of the focus of the new campaign.

Ensure the Transport Employment and Skills Taskforce meets our future skills needs in freight and logistics

As part of the Future of Freight plan, DfT has also created the Transport Employment and Skills Taskforce (TEST). This has a specific focus on addressing skills and training challenges in the transport industry.

In the past, there has been much criticism that the measures put in place by the Government were disconnected from the real needs of transport employers and employees. The consultation leading up to this report will guide TEST. The Taskforce’s approach is not yet confirmed but promises to tackle “the barriers and opportunities to developing skills and careers across the transport sector.”

There is still a desire to increase apprenticeships in transport. However, the Department for Education (DfE) have introduced greater flexibility to enable employers to spend apprenticeship levy funds on more flexible apprenticeship training models. At the same time, a range of other Government-funded skills programmes remain available to support training and retraining, such as Skills Bootcamps, T Levels, and traineeships.

Support a programme of employer engagement

Part of the approach to apprenticeships also relates to employers. DfT, supported by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and Department for Education (DfE) are aiming to improve employer understanding of the benefits of government-funded skills intervention, including apprenticeships.

The report also confirms that there is a need to increase awareness of the different career options to fill skills gaps. Furthermore, the Government intends to collaborate with industry-led campaigns to promote routes into key freight and logistics careers. The report also states that the Government will be working to improve links between the industry and DfE to better promote training and employment schemes. Meanwhile, a review of training incentives available for freight and logistics business versus their business needs will be undertaken through the Freight Council.

The ultimate goal of this part of the ‘People and Skills’ element of the Future of Freight plan is for the industry to see a reduction in the time it takes to fill vacancies.

Reform Freight and Logistics training offers to encourage transferable qualifications

The new plan also sets out intentions for reform of freight and logistics training offers. Key to this is identifying “which transferable skills would allow candidates to take roles across the freight and logistics sector.”

The goal is to better align with employer-led standards by investing in

  • Employer led classroom-based learning
  • Occupational traineeships
  • Retraining opportunities, such as Skills Bootcamps

Support efforts to boost diversity within the sector

The new report recognises the need to understand the causes behind a lack of diversity across the transport industry, where the image of a male-dominated “boys’ club” still remains. For example, the median age of an HGV/LGV driver is fifty-five, and less than 1% of HGV/LGV drivers are women. There is also a documented pay gap of 10.4% between men and women in large transport companies. In addition, only 3% of the haulage workforce are from Black and minority ethnic backgrounds, compared to 19% of the whole national workforce.

While the plan does not stipulate any particular measures to tackle diversity, it reminds that “Any sector that is failing to recruit from the entire population is more likely to run into labour shortages”. The report states that success will be achieved when the “Industry delivers an improvement in diversity in relation to age, gender, and ethnicity within the sector.”

What does the future hold for talent in transport?

This report is not the first time that plans to address industry issues have been put into place by the Government. Nor are these the first training reforms or taskforces. Many of the measures will have both supporters and detractors. How successful the new plans are will only be seen in the fullness of time.

Regardless, the launch of the report should at least help shine the spotlight on a sector which is often overlooked, despite being essential to both the economy and our day-to-day lives. Changing the transport industry’s reputation and strengthening its talent pipeline will not happen overnight. But what is clear, is that the Government’s support can only take us so far.  To make a change and secure future talent, businesses in the industry have a vital role to play, now more than ever.

Act now to help overcome people and skills challenges

To take action on recruiting, developing, engaging, and retaining the very best people within the transport and logistics industries, visit our Resources area for free research reports and educational webinars and podcasts. Our blogs also offer a wealth of practical advice for employers, training, and HR professionals looking to address skills gaps and better look after their valuable talent.

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