Brexit: In training for a new transport landscape

In the wake of Britain’s imminent EU departure, David Crawford says there will be new opportunity to develop more homegrown driving talent.

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An estimated 3m of the commercial vehicle driving jobs in the UK are tied to trading with the EU. So, clearly in the face of a changing legislative and employment landscape, the transport sector has to deal with some really important issues – and sooner rather than later.

These will include border controls impacting on the movement of labour and goods together with a shift towards engaging different ways to haul or move goods to and from Western Europe and far distant markets. Significant changes in the industry are also likely to manifest themselves in the shape of recruitment shortages.

Transport and logistics are vital infrastructure industries, contributing massively to keeping the wheels of UK plc rolling. Combined, they represent the third largest employer, so any consequences of Brexit will, in turn, affect our economy as a whole.

Following Brexit, the free movement of labour between the UK and EU will be a big concern for the industry. We currently have a chronic shortage of skilled drivers in this country and it’s only getting worse unless more is done to attract young people to consider driving careers. It is a challenge for both recruiters and the industry, but not necessarily an impossible obstacle to overcome.

It’s crucial that operators ensure that the government is unequivocally aware of the paramount issues banging on the door of the transport sector

Changes to the law in the form of the Great Repeal Act, which comes into effect from March 2019, provide a possible platform to adapt or even dispense with some aspects of transport and employment law.

It also offers an opportunity to orchestrate change. A chance to modernise through, for instance, proposing better terms to attract more recruits and boost training opportunities through new initiatives. Indeed, with whole swathes of foreign drivers compelled to return to their native countries, the opportunity will exist to build a new force of highly trained and fully qualified homegrown drivers.

Government schemes, which include Express Delivery Trailblazing apprenticeships, which training providers are looking at delivering, are welcome as a blueprint to move forward. These schemes promise to be big drivers of employment post-March 2019 as they offer young apprentices the chance to earn while they learn to be commercial vehicle drivers.

They support the needs of industry and commerce, equipping a new generation of people with the skills, professionalism and confidence to meet the needs of employers in a post-Brexit world. They will also guide future generations into the industry and help them through the challenges and adventures that a career in logistics offers.

Standing on the threshold of Brexit, it seems appropriate for those involved in securing future skills needs to prepare for change and be adaptable in the face of an uncertain next few years. After all, change can sometimes be a potent force for good, working in the sector’s favour. 

It can provide recruiters and businesses with an opportunity to reassess practices and improve recruitment strategies and employment opportunities across the industry.

The single most important message to be absorbed in all this is that we are going to see a massive change in our relationship with the EU over the next few years as the dust begins to settle and some kind of equilibrium is found.

It’s crucial that operators ensure that the government is unequivocally aware of the paramount issues banging on the door of the transport sector, highlighting any economic impact on the UK economy if certain current rules are surrendered in the negotiation.

Whatever the implications of Brexit for the transport industry, it’s clearly important for those on the frontline of driving to deliver service and quality are as prepared as possible for all the eventualities; with the right strategies in place to cope with any negative outcome. 

We will continue to invest in being recognised as an industry that’s committed to world-class training and people development programmes, which are second to none. That’s something that I am personally very proud of.


About the author

David Crawford is director of System Group.


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