Many sectors have a constant churn of staff and require an influx of talent, but this is especially true in the logistics sector. The industry, which accounts for 8% of all UK employment, is facing a “severe” skills shortage according to the CILT.

The survey shows that 54% of logistics businesses expect to see skills shortages by 2024, with drivers, warehouse operatives, and back-office vacancies the most urgent to fill. An Edge report shows that demand for transport and logistics employees is 4.6 times higher than young people aspiring to work in the sector. This highlights a serious issue with supply and demand.

Like many sectors in the UK, the logistics industry is also facing a serious digital skills gap. According to C. H. Robinson General Manager Nick Ghia, this is as concerning, if not more pressing, than the employee shortage: “Everyone talks about a driver shortage but arguably the biggest issue is around developing a digital workforce which will be critical to driving forward the logistics industry in the future.”

Why is the sector experiencing such a severe skills gap?

The sector has one of the most prominent ageing workforces in the UK. RHA data shows that the average age of road haulage drivers is 57, while 81.1% of transport managers are over 45. Over a third of transport managers are aged between 55–64, meaning many will reach retirement age by 2029. This predicament has only been amplified by Brexit, which has seen 80,000 EU nationals leave the UK’s logistics sector.

This older-than-average workforce feeds into the issue of a digital skills gap. According to a PwC report, 50% of executives in logistics businesses say their biggest barrier to digital adoption is a lack of digital culture and training. It makes sense that workers who were not brought up with technology may find it more difficult to adapt than younger employees who have been around it all their lives. But this is causing problems for businesses because workers end up resistant to change.

The logistics sector is therefore ranked low on digital maturity, scoring 32 points out of 100. This is in comparison to the overall travel sector, which scores 41, and digital leaders in transport, who score an average of 62. Logistics companies that work in B2C sectors are feeling additional pressure to go digital as more consumers demand an online presence.

How can you fill your skills gap?

Not only is the sector short on personnel, but it’s lacking in key roles and skills. If you’re unable to plug these gaps, you’ll struggle to meet increasing customer demands and may lose out on business as a result. But there are a number of ways you can address this pressing issue.

Attract the next generation of workers

An ageing workforce and digital skills shortage are combining to create a huge problem for logistics businesses. The good news is that with every new workforce generation comes better digital skills. As businesses digitally advance, they need a workforce that is able to adopt technology easily. The millennial and Generation Z workforces – those born between 1980 and 2015 – have grown up with technology as standard. It’s for this reason that they’ve been dubbed “digital natives”. They’ll bring a natural knack for using digital technologies to any role.

Apprenticeships are a great option to explore for a number of reasons. Training young apprentices on the job means they’ll gain the necessary skills for the role whilst also working towards a qualification. You can also train them on your organisation’s specific systems and processes, moulding them for the role that is most important to your business. They’ll bring the skills that come with an upbringing in a digital world, and you can equip them with the expertise they need to succeed in your business.

It’s important to understand how to attract the best and brightest talent from this generation of digital experts. Half of millennials rate flexibility as “very important” when choosing an employer. This generation is also the most likely to job-hop, with 43% planning on leaving their current roles in the next two years. Therefore, it’s key to meet their expectations in order to retain the best talent once you’ve got them through the door.

Provide digital training

One of the best ways you can set your business and your employees up for success is to provide digital training. This is critical to equipping your existing and new employees with the skills they need for their roles. Not only will this ensure that your workforce is trained on your specific systems and logistics software, but that they’re also prepared for your company’s digitisation.

With 70% of young people expecting their employers to provide digital training, this can also help you attract the next generation of employees.

Encourage internal movers and shakers

A sure-fire way to onboard employees in critical areas of your business is to allow employees to move between roles or progress into higher positions. This is a great opportunity for back-office staff to try their hand at warehousing roles. Similarly, your warehouse operatives may have expressed an interest in trying their hand at HGV driving.

The bonus of filling your most pressing vacancies with existing employees is that you know they’re already familiar with your business and its processes. While they will still require training in their new role, it’ll be a quicker induction than if you were to bring new hires on board. That’s not to say you shouldn’t be hiring externally. Blending internal role changes and external recruitment will help you fill the most pressing gaps.

It’s clear the logistics sector is experiencing a serious skills gap. Not only is there an employee shortage in critical areas including drivers, warehousing operatives, and back-office staff, but there is also a digital skills gap which is threatening the growth of businesses. There are a number of ways organisations in the sector can combat this, from recruiting digital-savvy employees to upskilling their existing staff. Blending these three methods together will ensure you have a workforce prepared for your digital revolution.