Harnessing apprenticeships for the future of transport and logistics

The new Apprenticeship Levy could help transport and logistics companies solve their recruitment problems and equip their workforces with new skills.

The Government’s new Apprenticeship Levy represents an attractive opportunity for the transport and logistics sector to broaden its skills base and bring in new recruits – including young talent that T&L businesses often struggle to attract.

“This is a real opportunity for T&L employers to set out their stall to potential recruits,” argues James Hookham, Deputy Chief Executive of the Freight Transport Association. “But we will need to make sure we articulate the diverse and sophisticated opportunities our sector can offer, including access to a structured career ladder.”

 

The details

The levy came into force in April 2017 as part of the Government’s plan to create 3 million new apprenticeships by 2020. Under the scheme, all employers with an annual wage bill of more than £3m will be required to contribute 0.5% of the total to the levy. They will then have two years to spend the money on apprenticeship training from Government-approved providers.

In England, the scheme will operate through a digital account, where businesses will also be able to post apprenticeship vacancies, while slightly different arrangements apply in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Many businesses will be eligible for a Government top-up when they spend their levy money.

Initially, the digital service will only be available to businesses paying the levy, but the plan is to give more employers access, possibly from as soon as 2018. Businesses outside the levy scope will still be eligible for Government support with the cost of apprenticeships.

 

Challenges and opportunities

For both types of employer, apprenticeships represent an opportunity to solve some of the recruitment shortfalls the T&L sector now suffers.

However, it’s important that T&L businesses recognise that apprenticeship spending can also be used to support existing employers, helping businesses to professionalise and prepare for emerging challenges and opportunities. “The levy could be a real chance to make sure your workforce is better educated,” says David Coombes, Managing Director of Skills for Logistics. “The T&L sector isn’t necessarily equipped with the skills it will need for the future, and this could be its chance to secure those capabilities.”

To capitalise on this opportunity, T&L employers should be thinking hard about which skills to target, starting to identify the kind of training that is available, and working out how to tailor apprenticeship programmes to their own circumstances and requirements. Those that can do so will stand a better chance or attracting and retaining staff, argues Jonathan Backhouse, a director at Backhouse Jones solicitors, which specialises in supporting the sector.

“We’ve not always been good as an industry at setting out to people where they can take their careers in the years ahead,” he says. “People want to know what they could be doing when they’re 40, rather than worrying that they’ll get stuck in the same job.”

 

Looking ahead

Many in the T&L sector believe that painting such a picture will require a collective effort to raise the industry’s profile as well as individual employers taking the initiative. A single industry voice or figurehead able to articulate a vision of the industry as an attractive employer offering a broad range of opportunities, skills and long-term career choices could transform perceptions of transport and logistics.

“A single voice is something we lack as an industry but it could be so important,” says Simon Reynish, Business Development Manager of Transport Exchange and North West Regional Chair of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport. “It’s time we set out our stall as an industry and really made people understand how crucial and fundamental we are to the whole economy; that’s a crucial part of the process of attracting more people, including apprenticeships, to transport and logistics.”

 

This article is based on a round-table discussion hosted by Santander at the Ambassador Forum, a gathering of senior leaders from across the transport and logistics sector.

 

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