The last-mile logistics workforce


Nearly half of the population would consider a role in last mile delivery, research has revealed, yet the rapidly growing sector is struggling to recruit and re-skill the workforce needed to match consumer demand. So how can this situation be improved?

A nationwide survey commissioned by Lifetime Training explored the attitudes to last mile delivery – the final journey from warehouse to customer – and has revealed the barriers to recruitment and retention in the rapidly growing sector.
The accompanying report, Bringing your A Game to the last mile, explores how apprenticeships can help address both current skills shortages and future workforce requirements by building lasting career pathways in the sector.
The research found that, while 88 per cent of respondents now buy goods online, a third of people don’t know what a role in last mile delivery involves. Fifty-six per cent knew that couriers worked in the sector, but only 21 per cent of respondents knew that warehousing also plays a vital part. The statistics highlight a public misconception of last mile delivery; with many people unaware of less visible roles such as those in warehousing, data analysis and customer service.
George Dee, head of employability at Lifetime Training, explains: “We’re encouraged by findings that suggest awareness and appreciation of more visible roles are improving, with 56 per cent of respondents rating HGV drivers, couriers and delivery drivers more highly post pandemic. Yet, the industry is still struggling to recruit. According to a report by Edge, the demand for transport and logistics employees is 4.6 times higher than the number of young people aspiring to work in the sector. To improve attraction, employers need to demonstrate the scale and diversity of the opportunities an apprenticeship can offer.”
Negative perceptions

The report also uncovered negative perceptions surrounding pay and working conditions, with 41 per cent of respondents saying that low pay would prevent them from taking a role in last mile delivery and 24 per cent saying physical work would be a barrier.     
In fact, the logistics and warehouse sectors witnessed the second highest pay change of any industry in the UK from October 2019 to October 2021 (+9.63 per cent), behind only the technology sector, while the range of career options available is increasing as the sector continues to create innovative, technology-driven delivery solutions.

Diversifying the workforce

The most highly ranked business priority for Lifetime Training’s partners operating in the sector was achieving
a more diverse and inclusive workforce, with 83 per cent of employer partners ranking this as a top three priority.
Warehousing, logistics and delivery should be an accessible career for many people of diverse backgrounds, yet the industry is still overwhelmingly male and is struggling to recruit a younger generation.
Research conducted by Lifetime Training found that 57.5 per cent of women said they wouldn’t consider a career in last mile delivery, 10 per cent more than men (47.9 per cent). For warehousing and delivery categories, only half as many women as men would consider the role (15.2 per cent vs 8.8 per cent for warehousing roles and 22.2 per cent vs 10.6 per cent for delivery driver roles).
Matthew Robinson, partnership director at Lifetime Training, explains:
“Employers in the sector urgently need to position the last mile as an innovative and future-looking sector and offer high quality, sector-specific training to attract candidates and build the future workforce in last mile delivery.”

Training and development

The research also revealed that nearly half (46 per cent) of respondents said that good training and skills and career progression were the most important factors when considering a new job role. This fails to marry up with people’s views of working in the last mile, with 19 per cent of survey respondents saying that a lack of career progression would prevent them from taking a role in the sector.
Phil Whitehouse, head of curriculum and learning technologies at Lifetime Training, said: “We work with employers to build programmes with clear and visible pathways, so learners consider apprenticeships as not ‘just a job’, but a foundation for their ongoing career progression and future opportunities. Employers that can clearly demonstrate the opportunities for ongoing development and progression will gain a competitive edge for attracting talent.”

Case study: DX

DX, one of the largest parcel distribution companies in the UK, discovered that the fast-paced nature of the industry
combined with a highly competitive job market was having a negative impact on employee retention. DX decided to use apprenticeships to nurture and retain in-house talent while increasing its reputation as an employer that invests in people.
In 2020, Lifetime Training started working in partnership with DX to train apprentices in Customer Service Level 2 and Level 3, Associate Project Management Level 4 and Team Leader Supervisor Level 3. As apprenticeships were new to the company, the first step was helping managers to understand the benefits of apprenticeships, so they were engaged and supportive of the roll-out.
To further maximise the success of the programme, DX invited employees who were committed to their own training and progression to apply for the opportunity, making sure they were investing in the people who would become apprenticeship advocates in future.
During 2021, Lifetime and DX continued to spread the word by further educating management on why apprenticeships were an
effective tool for upskilling employees, encouraging managers to start enrolling their team onto the new programmes. This resulted in DX experiencing a 75 per cent completion rate in their first year, as well as an increase in employee motivation and retention. The organisation also recruited several new apprentices through Lifetime Training’s Apprenticeship Recruitment Services.
The improvement in employee morale and the recruitment of new talent into the business means DX is now enrolling learners onto
Operations Departmental Manager Level 5 and Supply Chain Warehouse Operative Level 2 programmes in 2022, so they can continue to unlock the benefits of apprenticeships across the company.

The opportunity for change

Awareness and appreciation of last mile roles have increased during COVID-19, with many classified as key workers. This presents a unique opportunity for the logistics sector to build on this recognition and create a more positive perception of these jobs, by offering clear pathways into work and future career progression through reskilling and apprenticeships.