As Britain’s warehouses have operated near capacity for several years, how is the looming Brexit date and the uncertainty that surrounds it affecting the storage and logistics sector – and what does this mean for the industry’s workforce? 

“Against a backdrop of mounting political turmoil in recent months, UK firms have begun redoubling their efforts to prepare for a potentially damaging no-deal Brexit at the end of October,” reported The Guardian last week, “[…] Analysts have warned that the Brexit deadline comes as warehousing activity ramps up ahead of the festive season, making planning for both events harder for businesses.” 

Stockpiling is a bit of a buzz word in the logistics and storage industries at the moment. Media reports have been telling the British public that the nation’s warehouses are at capacity for several years now – even back in 2017, one report stated that the supply of warehousing in the UK had already fallen by 72% since 2009.  

But as stockpiling hits a record high this year thanks to a looming Brexit date, business and retailers are certainly feeling increased pressure on already stretched warehouse facilities and their workers. 

As companies attempt to limit the potential damage of a no-deal Brexit ahead of Christmas, the cost of both warehouse space and the staff to manage the storage and logistics has soared, with many retailers and warehouse managers anxious about the number of skilled workers available to meet demand. 

“From a resourcing prospective, I think the warehousing industry has a real concern on how they will meet the staffing requirements once the UK leaves the EU,” comments Adrian Grove, Business Development Director, Qube Learning.  

“However, the challenge will come from attracting talent to enable these spaces to become operational. The industry needs to ensure they promote the many variety of roles that are available within a warehouse environment, so individuals can make an informed decision on whether the sector can offer an aspirational career for them.  

“Any employer that is able to demonstrate that they have a clear progression pathway within their business will be ahead of a competitor who cannot – and this may well be an important factor in reducing the impact of Brexit.” 

According to Qube Learning – a first-class training provider specialising in apprenticeships and vocational courses, short courses and e-learning – the warehousing industry needs to realise the benefits of apprenticeships for their workforce, especially in the context of the potential logistics crisis of late 2019 into 2020. 

“Apprenticeships allow employers within the warehousing and logistics industry to bring in new talent into their businesses by offering a real opportunity to young people to earn and learn,” says Adrian. “With the breadth of Apprenticeship programmes available to the industry, employers can support an employee to move up the career ladder and in doing so supply a future pipeline of middle and upper management.” 

Qube Learning is one of the UK’s leading learning providers and in 2020 will also be able to deliver the Warehouse/Transport Supervisor Apprenticeship Level 3. There is already significant client demand for this programme amongst the existing Qube customer base and shows the increasing numbers of companies interested in innovative workforce growth via specialist apprenticeship schemes. 

Employers should also remember the advantages of British government support for apprenticeship schemes, including the Apprenticeship Levy. The government will top up apprenticeship funds held by companies by 10 per cent each month, so employers will get more out than they put in.  

Bosses may also benefit from co-investment, where they contribute just 10 per cent towards any additional training and assessment costs not covered by levy payments, and the government will contribute the remaining sum, up to the funding band maximum. 

“The introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy encourages employers to analyse where that levy would most benefit the business and generate the best return on investment,” says Adrian. “Post-Brexit, the industry is likely to see a dramatic decline in applicants to job vacancies, since historically a plentiful supply of jobs was serviced by those moving to the UK from overseas. Furthermore, many of our sector employers are using their Apprenticeship levy to develop their current and future workforce of Team Leaders and Managers – there are so many possibilities within the programme.” 

As the mounting costs of higher education and university life put many young people off applying, an apprenticeship in the warehousing sector can offer an alternative career pathway – and by investing in apprentices who are at the beginning of their working life, companies will be able to ‘train their own talent’ with the exact skill set that business needs. 

“Modern day apprenticeships are designed by employers within the sector subject area and so the content is really focussed on the needs of that sector,” explains Adrian. “For example, take the Supply Chain Warehouse Operative Apprenticeship – a key element of this programme is Health & Safety and by giving employees the opportunity to complete this Apprenticeship, the knowledge gained will increase the H&S understanding of their staff and in turn reduce the risk of accidents on site.” 

It certainly seems that by increasing the skills of your workforce with apprenticeships schemes – which should directly increase productivity – there should be less need for businesses to rush to introduce new technologies or employ ‘generally’ trained retail workers.    

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“I would encourage any young person to really explore the benefits that completing an Apprenticeship offers them – for example, learning whilst being paid appears to be an attractive option for many and they can still gain a nationally recognised qualification. Many prefer a more hands-on approach – the Apprenticeship programme provides young people with the opportunity to do this, whist still learning valuable knowledge from their peers, colleagues in the workplace and from the learning provider. It is a widely accepted statistic that those who complete Apprenticeships go on to earn more over the period of their career and gain progression quicker than an individual who does not.” 

– Adrian Grove, Business Development Director, Qube Learning