Recruitment in logistics is more than finding pickers, packers and lorry drivers, writes James Strickland, group sales director of Omega Resource Group. The logistics sector has contributed towards a big chunk of the UK economy over the last decade, but are we fit enough to keep up? Here’s a look at what’s changed and how forward planning can secure a bright future for our e-tailing culture.
With 2016 underway and the Christmas and Black Friday shopping sprees postponed for another year, the revolution of e-tailing continues to take the market by storm, having dried up local shops on the high street. Margins may be as lean as ever in the logistics sector, but this unrelenting drive to fulfil online consumer shopping capabilities has placed serious demands on the need for more workers to fulfil orders. Often we see companies scampering to find enough labourers in logistics to meet online orders and deliver customer satisfaction.
Logistics feeds the operations of other industries so we often fail to assess its contribution to the economy in the way that it deserves; because the truth is that its contribution is huge. The logistics industry is worth £74.45bn to the UK economy and employs around 2.2 million people in over 196,000 companies. This means that 1 in 12 working people in the UK are employed in logistics (ONS, 2014).
But surely this comes as no surprise – shopping on your smart phone or tablet has been around long enough, so then why do the numbers not add up? Why is the demand for logistics recruitment not being met by its supply?
There is a labour shortage for talent across all levels of logistics positions because jobseekers are not seeing it as a career choice beyond moving boxes in a forklift. For instance, with the average age of a lorry driver being 57, and only two per cent under 25, drivers are coming close to retirement but not being replaced. The logistics sector as known by our parents, is a completely different beast to the younger generation. It’s no longer the low-skilled, cold warehouse or trucking jobs of the 20th century. Perception of the industry has not evolved parallel to the industry itself. An apprenticeship in picking and packing does not sound enticing; but it should be. In fact, employers are being forced to turn down workers due to a skills shortage. With the advancement in technology and guaranteed delivery services, IT skills or applied mathematics are essential for job descriptions that include the technical engineering of automated software programming, packing transportation and tracking systems. Furthermore, globalisation and EU export to the East have created new opportunities for European transport. The EU guarantees trading partners and a boost to the global economy. So although technology replaced jobs of lifting and shelving, they have created new jobs with different capabilities.
The logistics job market also exposes a regional divide. In a battle between the North and South, the North of England comes off second best. This is mainly because regions such as the North-East, North-West and Yorkshire and Humberside were least guarded to fend off the ramifications of the 2008 financial crisis, and steep cuts in the public sector have not helped since. The Government’s blueprint to create a so-called northern powerhouse has also failed to reap much reward so far. In comparison, further down the M1, even before you approach the outskirts of London, Leicestershire is known as the ‘logistics golden triangle’, mainly due to its convenient central location. In fact, over 46,000 – or one in 10 people in Leicester – work in logistics, making it the town’s third largest employer (ONS, 2015).
There were a total of 42,000 logistics jobs on offer in November last year, the most of any single sector, according to job search engine Adzuna. Last year came to a close with organisations like Yodel and Dalepak making announcements for big hiring boosts to continue the surge beyond Christmas. Dalepak, a supply chain management and warehousing specialist established over 20 years ago, announced its plans to appoint 200 new staff on various working patterns, due to a successful 2015. “Over the last 12 months, we have experienced considerable growth in terms of business being awarded,” explains Michael Finn, Joint Managing Director of Dalepak Limited. “This has had an impact on our recruitment requirements, as we have had to react quickly to the demands of our customers.” The company signed a multimillion pound contract with Omega Resource Group to manage the recruitment drive of up to 300 people into 2016. As the industry tightens and demand grows, companies like Dalepak need to come up with new business models that sources quick and effective recruitment solutions.
In a second article on the topic of employment, James will look at how to find – or even create the best available talent, and the delicate balance of costs vs returns.