Mystery of the Missing Millions

Contrary to expectations of spiralling unemployment after furlough, it’s now the opposite situation; a skills shortage.

By Matt Barker *

Reading the BBC news website the other day, I came across an article by Robert Plummer, Business Editor, entitled:  Where are Britain’s missing million workers?

It summarises the unique situation we now find ourselves in, that contrary to expectations of spiralling unemployment after the end of the furlough scheme, job vacancies are at a record high of 1.2 million and employers are challenged with a shortage of skilled workers.

The problem is that the pandemic has caused the labour market to shrink, according to Tony Wilson, director of the Institute of Employment Studies. This is due to a big rise in people classed as ‘economically inactive’, who are either not seeking jobs or available for work. This includes early retirees, ‘long Covid’ sufferers, and young people staying in education.
So, what about our industry? What is the longer-term prognosis, and what can we do about it?

Third-party logistics operators (3PLs) have been amongst the worst hit. Results from a recent survey carried out by the UK Warehousing Association (UKWA) found that: not a single warehousing business was laying people off; almost all had vacancies; and when asked what factors were most important for 2022, the issue of labour shortages came top – considerably ahead of other concerns, including energy costs.

The UKWA is engaging with Government to ensure that the message is heard and driving initiatives, such as Think Logistics, to attract more young people and women to careers in warehousing and logistics.

CSB has had great success with entry-level apprenticeships and is now looking to take on higher level apprentices in office administration. There is also great opportunity in helping ex-offenders back into work as warehouse operatives, and we are currently exploring this with help from UKWA.

So, while there are still considerable challenges ahead, this is an opportunity for our long-undervalued industry to become more visible and recognised, developing a more diverse workforce and with more varied career paths that embrace technology, data management, and innovations in sustainability.

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