The transport and logistics sector has suffered from a skills shortage across all levels from drivers, warehouse operatives, transport planners and managers. Pre-COVID-19, this Skill Shortage was having an impact on business expansion and growth opportunities and made dealing with issues posed by Brexit very difficult.
Aidan Flynn, General Manager at the Freight Transport Association Ireland (FTAI) COVID-19 has not changed the fact that new recruits need to be attracted to the freight distribution and logistics sector on a rolling basis. This is still of urgent necessity now. COVID-19 is obviously having a significant impact on employment with varying degrees of severity within the supply chain. Job creation opportunities and development of career progression opportunities are needed now more than ever. Recently, the Minister for Social Protection, Heather Humphreys TD and Minister for Further & Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris TD announced a range of activation measures aimed at helping people get back to work or education quickly. These new measures are very welcome for all sectors none more so than our industry.
Dealing with the skills shortage and developing supports for both employers and employees has been a major policy issue for FTA Ireland over the years. The new announcement in the July Stimulus Package provides for an Apprenticeship Recruitment Incentive which will provide a financial incentive for companies who recruit apprentices of up to €3,000. This stimulus should be attractive for employers seeking to expand their workforce by taking on apprentices or to upskill existing employees through an apprenticeship programme. Further details of how this will work needs to be forthcoming as a matter of urgency. With the new academic year fast approaching we need clarity on who qualifies for this incentive so that employers can make the necessary arrangements in the coming weeks.
According to the ‘Addressing the Demand for Skills in the Freight Transport, Distribution and Logistics Sector in Ireland 2015-2020 Report’ – “the demand forecast analysis in this report has found that, due to an anticipated expansion in the sector and the replacement demand for those employed in core FTDL occupations that some 13,500 to 15,500 job vacancies could become available over the period 2015-2020. In terms of recruitment, the main anticipated skills impediment is for HGV drivers with the required licence.” The 2018 publication ‘Addressing the Skills Needs Arising from the Potential Trade Implications of Brexit’ highlights that ‘it is anticipated that there will be a major external shock to the Irish economy when the UK leaves the EU’. The publication highlights that the freight transport distribution and logistics labour force will require approximately 30,000 new joiners by 2025. Getting people interested in a career in transport and logistics is of vital importance. Training and education, upskilling and continuous professional development must become the norm not the exception if our sector is to succeed into the future.
As many readers are aware The Logistics Associate Apprenticeship (LAA) has become the perfect entry point into the Freight, Logistics, Shipping and the Distribution industry not only for school graduates but also for those who wish to change their careers and get into the sector. It also offers upskilling opportunities for existing employees, many of whom ended up working in the sector entirely by coincidence. They have years of experience, but the lack of relevant qualifications prevented them from progressing their careers in the past.
Initially 27 apprentices commenced their journey on the programme since its official launch in 2018 with 17 employers signed up for the programme.
Since then, an additional 63 apprentices have been recruited, and over 40 employers have joined. In 2019 Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) became the second education provider for this apprenticeship. The newly announced incentive will serve as welcome and vital support for employers as they plan for the future trading environment that has been indelibly changed as a result of COVID-19 and will be further challenged come the 1 January 2021 when new import and export procedures for trading with the UK come into force. We need to make the most of what is available to us and certainly this apprenticeship incentive is a step in the right direction.”