The South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership (SEMLEP) has pledged a commitment to supporting its essential logistics sector and the 91,700 plus people working in logistics within the SEMLEP area.
SEMLEP has also calculated that there will be an additional 285,000 logistics positions to fill across the South East Midlands between 2014 and 2020, with considerable demand expected for both management and elementary positions.
At a launch event at Northampton-based Norbert Dentressangle Logistics UK SEMLEP unveiled its five year strategy which calls for an urgent need to recruit new as well as younger people into the sector, retain and train up existing staff and the need to change and transform the image of logistics so that it is viewed as a viable career of choice.
The discrepancy between the sector's workforce needs and numbers of people working in and entering the sector to work is identified as a pressing challenge, and this SEMLEP Logistics Report, written by Skills for Logistics calls for urgent change if the sector and UK economy as a whole is to thrive.
Councillor Mary Clarke, SEMLEP Director and Chair of the SEMLEP Logistics Group, said: "Logistics is critical to the South East Midlands and our central location, which makes us the most accessible area in the country. We have already attracted many of the world's most successful brands, including the likes of Tesco, Amazon and John Lewis.
"The South East Midlands is a key logistics hotspot and this report underpins our commitment to supporting the 91,700 plus people already working in logistics within the SEMLEP area and to creating new jobs and a skilled workforce to take the sector forward."
The area's established regional infrastructure, combined with labour and low property costs, has made logistics the joint number one biggest employer in the South East Midlands (alongside the healthcare sector), home to the likes of Culina Logistics, Yusen Logistics, Kuehne & Nagel, Wincanton, C Butt, Maxim and Eddie Stobart.
The SEMLEP Logistics Report identifies three key areas which need to be prioritised to enable the South East Midlands logistics sector to meet sector demand and to retain its reputation as a UK logistics hub spot.
Attract new blood, talent and competence
Too few people see the Logistics Sector as a viable career option so a portfolio of projects directly aimed at attracting new recruits into the sector is recommended – to encourage younger talent (only 7% of the workforce are currently under 25) as well as female and minority representation. It is recommended that these projects engage with those with pre-existing logistics training, including ex-offenders and people leaving the military.
Develop people so they can progress up the career ladder
Evidence suggests that people who begin in the Logistics Sector can become stuck, leave and take their skills and experience with them. There is need to develop people so they are work ready and also support people so they can progress up the career ladder.
The skills and training system often feels perplexing to a non-specialist - a system of funding and acronyms seemingly developed without the end user in mind. Consequently, even when an employer or individual is minded to seek training, the experience can be so gruelling that they may become disillusioned to the extent that they turn their back. This cannot be allowed to continue.
Skills for Logistics has identified a number of sites across the SEMLEP area which have the capacity to support current organisations as well as future development potential. These include Daventry's Prologis Apex Park, Corby's Prologis Park, Marston Gate's Prologis Park, Magna Park in Milton Keynes, Prologis Park in Dunstable, and Prologis Park Pineham in Northampton.
Ross Moloney, CEO of Skills for Logistics, the Sector Skills Council for the freight and wholesaling sector, said: "We are proud to be working with SEMLEP to launch the first of what will be a network of similar LEP initiatives in logistics 'hotspots' across the UK. With our headquarters in Milton Keynes, Skills for Logistics is acutely aware of how the sector has developed into the region's most significant employer, with a pressing need to attract local talent as well as developing and supporting those working in the sector."
SEMLEP has already lined up substantial funding and expertise to boost the area's logistics sector and is funding key transport schemes in 2015-16 and 2018-19 which include Woodside Link in Central Bedfordshire, Bedford Western Bypass, London Luton Airport surface access and A421 dualling from Milton Keynes to J13 on M1.
A number of proactive focus groups are run by SEMLEP, all committed to supporting the growth of companies based in South East Midlands.
The SEMLEP Skills Forum, chaired by Professor Nick Petford, Vice Chancellor of The University of Northampton, is developing a Skills Strategy to capture the skills priorities for economic growth.
The SEMLEP Logistics Group, made up of local authorities and businesses from across the area, has targeted itself to increase the number of net new jobs in the sector by 1% above the national average and to support, scrutinise, offer skills and expertise, stretch thinking and challenge ways of working.
For a copy of the SEMLEP Logistics Report log on to www.semlep.com or call the SEMLEP team on 01234 436100