The review of the Shortage Occupation List (SOL), published this week by the Migration Advisory Committee, ignores the value which workers at all levels bring to the logistics sector, one of UK PLC’s most crucial trade drivers.

FTA, the business organisation which represents more than 17,000 businesses across the logistics industry, is concerned that the UK’s future immigration system needs to accommodate the requirement for workers with practical, as well as academic, qualifications, if Britain is to keep trading effectively after Brexit:

“FTA acknowledges that the SOL, by its very nature, may not be the most appropriate route for the fulfilment of so-called lower skilled jobs,” says Sally Gilson, Head of Skills Development at the business association, “with the difficulties for workers who want to move from employer to employer. In addition, the report highlights that there will be no long term route for so called lower skilled workers to come and work in the UK post Brexit, which will make recruitment even more difficult moving forwards.

“Jobs such as HGV driving, where the industry already has an acute skills shortage, could work within the SOL and there are long term positions offering good salaries available now. But by classifying HGV driving as a level 2 qualification, government is ensuring that it won’t qualify on either the SOL or fit within the new immigration system, leaving logistics searching for the workers needed to keep the country trading.”

The government’s focus on a solely academic route to work has also been queried once more by FTA. “Driving an HGV is a complicated matter and not just a question of ‘getting in and driving’, continues Ms Gilson. “Government must move away from prioritising purely academic classifications when talking about skills and focus on vocational skills: the regulatory knowledge and the skills required to drive an HGV are complex and should not be dismissed. To ensure that our businesses can continue to be served by the industry which provides the goods and services they need, we must start recognising and appreciating technical skills within our immigration system too.

“The report is wrong to conclude that lower skilled roles would be filled if we, as a sector, just paid more. Logistics businesses are currently operating on very narrow, fluid margins, and the jobs on offer are often in areas of very low unemployment. Quite simply there just isn’t the labour available. It is worth pointing out that the average HGV driver salary is above the UK national average salary. This is not about pay alone.

“Training for HGV driving is expensive and the apprenticeship qualifications available to potential employees are not fit for purpose for many of our members. One solution which is within the gift of UK government would be to open up levy funding to all forms of vocational training, then logistics businesses could spend their money on the training most appropriate for them.”

Efficient logistics is vital to keep Britain trading, directly having an impact on more than seven million people employed in the making, selling and moving of goods. With Brexit, new technology and other disruptive forces driving change in the way goods move across borders and through the supply chain, logistics has never been more important to UK plc. A champion and challenger, FTA speaks to Government with one voice on behalf of the whole sector, with members from the road, rail, sea and air industries, as well as the buyers of freight services such as retailers and manufacturers.