Logistics firms are facing some of the toughest recruitment conditions in living memory. The combined challenges of Brexit, the pandemic, and the Great Resignation have left many firms in desperate need of new workers, with those workers hard to find.
Difficult times require creative solutions. We’re going to look at sponsored licence visas to understand where they fit in a logistics recruitment plan.
What is a sponsored license visa?
Sponsored licence visas are designed to allow you to recruit workers from overseas without needing to become permanent residents in the UK.
As an employer, you don’t need to obtain an individual visa from the Home Office for each employee. Instead, you provide them with a certificate of sponsorship, which enables them to obtain their own visas.
This can dramatically reduce the administrative burden of hiring overseas workers.
The sponsored licence visa program falls under the designation of Temporary Worker Licences or Worker Licences. This makes it suitable for short-term solutions to seasonal vacancies and hiring longer-term employees.
The most important requirement when seeking to fill a role with a sponsored licence visa is that you must not be able to fill the role domestically. This typically means that you must have advertised the position to UK workers and could not source sufficient quality candidates.
Given the difficulties logistics companies face when trying to fill roles and trying to source drivers in particular, this requirement is unlikely to present any difficulties.
The licence to sponsor this kind of visa lasts for four years, but you can reapply to continue recruiting staff to fit your requirements.
The state of UK logistics and how sponsored license visas could help
It’s hard to overestimate the severity of the labour shortage in UK logistics. Logistics has been hit harder than almost any other sector thanks to Brexit.
Many of our EU workers returned home to avoid the uncertainty following the Brexit vote. Of those who chose to remain within the UK, excessive delays at the border have led many to seek less stressful (and often more lucrative) work within Europe instead.
The shortage of drivers isn’t just a UK issue. Logistics firms worldwide are struggling to meet demand, which has surged following the pandemic and successive lockdowns.
The current economic challenges may also lead to increased driver demand as more people turn to online purchases to obtain the biggest discounts.
The difficulty doesn’t end with growing demand. We also have an ageing workforce, with around 4% of the total driver workforce retiring each year. The average driver age in the UK is 55 years old, which suggests that retirement rates are unlikely to reduce any time soon.
Whatever happens, the severe labour shortage across logistics in the UK is unlikely to go anywhere soon. Some trends may help, but right now, it’s unclear whether they will be sufficient to resolve the situation.
The increased publicity around lorry driver shortages may have contributed to a significant increase in training testing since COVID-19. We are seeing test numbers rising by almost 75% compared with before the pandemic, reflecting pent-up demand.
Despite these improvements, the industry remains short of workers. As we reach pre-COVID numbers of qualified drivers, it’s important to remember that this was still over 76,000 drivers below the number required.
There will also be significant seasonal shortages, especially during the critical period between now and Christmas.
Sponsored licence visas, being both (relatively) low-cost and flexible, may help to attract more drivers to work in the UK. Drivers from within the EU and further afield may decide to take advantage of the current high wages and improving working conditions in the sector.
Recruiting workers from outside the UK is unlikely to represent a long-term solution to the problems faced by logistics firms in this country, but it can buy us time.
While we work on hiring drivers to meet our needs, we also need the government to step up and make structural changes to help support this essential industry.
Thankfully, there are some signs that the government is willing to look at how to support logistics recruitment in the long term.
The Department for Transport is currently conducting a public consultation on possible changes to the driver licensing regime, focusing on how to safely increase the number of qualified drivers.
They are keen to look for ways to improve the pass rate for trainee drivers (without lowering safety standards) and are looking for evidence around giving more provisions to qualified drivers.
They have also simplified the testing procedures and enabled more tests to be offered per year. This includes recruiting more examiners and allowing drivers to take a single test to cover both rigid and articulated lorries.
We are also seeing policies aimed at reducing barriers to entry into the industry. The high cost of training can be a significant barrier, especially for the younger workers the industry desperately needs.
The government has extended funding support for many trainees for another 12 months. This will enable young people to train and work as drivers without having to incur debt or rely on friends and family for help.
Stay updated on all things logistics with crooton
Things are looking up for the logistics industry as a whole, but we’re not yet out of the woods. Individual logistics firms still face huge challenges finding the staff they need to meet demand and grow their businesses.
Firms that do manage to find great staff will be well-placed to seize great opportunities during this period of sustained high demand. Make sure you’re among them by keeping up to date with the latest news and analysis of recruitment within the logistics sector.
At crooton we’re experts in the challenges faced by logistics firms… and how to overcome them.
Check out our blog posts on important aspects of logistics recruitment, including:
- Where are women in logistics?
- How to improve your logistics recruitment strategy
- How HGV driver shortages are affecting logistics recruitment.
If you’re ready to take your logistics recruitment to the next level, call us today to discuss your needs with our friendly team… and hear our exciting, innovative solutions.