After many years in the wilderness, apprenticeships for young people wishing to follow a career in freight forwarding are back on the agenda in the UK.
While the British International Freight Association (BIFA) has always offered skills development courses, until recently government policies have not encouraged wider vocational education. However, that is now changing with the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy and Trailblazer Apprenticeships.
The Trailblazers concept is that groups of employers come together to create and themselves adopt new apprenticeship standards. They work together, supported and guided by the Institute of Apprenticeships to develop new programmes of learning that are directly relevant to their industry.
The freight industry has lost no time in taking advantage of the new regime. A forwarders employers’ group, facilitated by BIFA has formed a new Trailblazer group for the industry and initiated a new Freight Forwarding Apprenticeship standard, approved by the Institute for Apprenticeships in late April, which UK freight companies can now take advantage of.
BIFA had already recruited Carl Hobbis as its Training Development Manager in 2016 and he has completely revitalised the association’s activities in this area, including the recruitment of two full-time trainers to the Association’s staff to keep up with the predicted increase in demand.
Forwarders are now being urged to take advantage of the new Level 3 Apprenticeship standard, which covers core modules including customs procedures, freight movement, customer service and costing, with a minimum duration of 18 months. Parcels firm DPD became the first company to enrol its team into the new apprenticeship, working with training provider the Logistics Skills Alliance (LSA) to develop a bespoke blended learning programme.
BIFA has already received numerous enquiries about the new apprenticeships, averaging at least one a day. While some members are already quite au fait with what is involved in hiring an apprentice, others are less confident, so BIFA has produced a useful guide to help them navigate the process – which, however, is not fundamentally complicated.
One point to note is that BIFA itself is not managing the apprenticeship programme. This is being handled in the first instance by local training providers, although in almost all cases these providers are then outsourcing technical training to the Association, including its Customs BTEC course. BIFA will also be quality-assuring the assessment that all apprentices must complete at the end of their course.
However, dealing with the apprenticeship process is all very well – but the apprentices need to come forward in the first place, and the freight industry has not been particularly successful in attracting young talent in recent years, given the many competing and, on the face of it, more glamorous professions available to youngsters these days – not to mention university or higher education.
The Institute for Apprenticeships has set a target of recruiting 1,000 freight industry apprentices per year from 2020 and while tough, BIFA believes that this is achievable via its 1,500 member companies. BIFA cannot do this on its own, however, and says that a collective effort by the industry is needed to recruit apprentices, with freight forwarding companies getting out into their local schools and colleges to promote the attractions of a career in the sector. There is stiff competition even for these opportunities, so BIFA is also encouraging its members to work with other local community groups or even sports clubs, as these can often be more receptive.
In time, BIFA believes that the apprentices themselves could also be powerful recruiting tools, going back into schools and colleges to explain the attractions of a career in the industry.
All this may seem a lot of effort to a busy freight forwarding business, though in reality it may take no more than perhaps a few hours of management time - and in return the value that an apprentice can bring a forwarding business is immeasurable.
Posted on: October 11th 2018