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Clare Bottle CEO, UKWA

Investing in people

Most UK companies have concerns about employee retention but for warehousing and logistics businesses tackling labour and skills shortages, the issue has reached a critical juncture, says UKWA CEO Clare Bottle.

According to LinkedIn’s Workplace Learning Report 2023, a massive 92 per cent of UK organisations are concerned about employee retention. The report concluded: “Providing learning opportunities and flexible work arrangements are the top ways UK employers improve retention, followed by opportunities for mentoring or coaching, and wellness programmes.”

Employee retention is indeed a top priority for many employers — particularly in the warehousing and logistics sector, where labour and skills shortages have long been a challenge, and are now critical with the lowest youth unemployment rates for decades and tougher post-Brexit immigration regulations.

So how can we compete to attract and keep the best people? Driving Employment Growth Within the UK’s Logistics Sector, a report from Prologis earlier this year, revealed that logistics workers value their above-average earnings and the strong opportunities for career progression. But there is no recognised qualification for warehouse managers and most of them do not have a university degree. The report found that the sector offers social mobility for those with limited qualifications, to access employment, gain training and move up to management. Increased automation and the use of technology is generating new opportunities too for those with science, engineering, technology, business and finance skills.

Revised Supply Chain Warehouse Operative Apprenticeship

Further education and training is limited for young, would-be warehouse workers entering the sector without formal qualifications, so the recent news of the upgrading of the Supply Chain Warehouse Operative Apprenticeship is a positive step for the industry. Confirmed by Secretary of State for Education Gillian Keegan, the Funding Band for the Apprenticeship has been revised upwards to Band 8 (up to £5,000). Hopefully this will encourage employers to adopt the a pprenticeship route to attract more young people into a sector packed with opportunities to build a rewarding career.

Time and again we hear from young people that career development is a key consideration when choosing employment, and for those already working within the sector, the prospects for widening their skill set and achieving promotion are cited as important too. A LinkedIn report found that employees who believe their companies aren’t using their skills are ten times more likely to be looking for a new job.

There are plenty of opportunities for people to grow and develop in the logistics sector, regardless of background and education. Warehousing offers a socially mobile working environment where many have started with entry-level jobs such picking and packing, and have risen to more senior roles through experience on the job. While this is good news, it means some staff have never received any formal training for their role and therefore may not be performing to the very best of their ability. This is why UKWA initially developed our popular short Warehouse Management course, to further professionalise those already operating as Warehouse Managers, or aspiring to the role. Feedback from course attendees confirms that in addition to the structured learning sessions, they really valued the chance to network with others and share best practice. The course always includes a warehouse site visit, which in the words of one attendee was “an eye-opener in terms of the size of operation, how they work and the procedures they had in place, but definitely all transferable to a smaller company”. Another comment from an experienced Warehouse Manager of a large-scale operation confirmed appreciation for a ‘refresher’ course that brought his skills up to date.

New UKWA qualification for Warehouse Managers

For UKWA’s Year of Warehousing initiative in 2024, announced at our House of Lords Parliamentary Luncheon in October 2023, we will be taking our investment in skills and training to a new level. The year-long campaign will focus on showcasing the best of warehousing, with a punishing schedule of 80 warehouse visits, marking the 80th anniversary of the Association. Kicking off the celebrations in January, UKWA will be announcing its exciting new Warehouse Manager Certificate of Professional Competence.

Co-written and delivered by independent consultants Ruth Waring and Gwynne Richards (author of Kogan Page’s definitive textbook Warehouse Management), the Level 3 course is accredited by CILT. It has been designed to provide a recognised qualification that supports employee development and is set to become an industry standard, equivalent in status to the well-established Transport Manager CPC.

The Warehouse Manager CPC will be taught as a two-week course, including in-person classroom tuition covering all aspects of warehousing, with candidates assessed by examination to ensure high standards are met. Currently, we are recruiting our first cohort for 2024, and plan to introduce further courses in the future. Investing in your people is simply common sense.

Training shouldn’t end after induction, nor should it be limited to current job responsibilities. Offering ongoing training for employees to hone professional skills and advance their careers provides clear benefits for both the individual and the company. If staff are motivated to learn as much as they can, they are more likely to improve their performance, their income and their overall happiness. The better they do, the more satisfied and engaged they are, the better overall employee retention. It’s a win-win for everyone. The first ever UKWA Warehouse Manager CPC Course is scheduled for 8 January 2024.

For further information, please contact enquiries@ukwa.org.uk

  • Supply Chain