Supply chain challenges: The UK labor shortage and the outlook for 2022

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Over the past few years, a series of unprecedented global changes have caused a shift in the shipping sector, creating some big challenges but also many opportunities. Brexit led to wide-ranging amendments to European trade regulations; lockdowns in many countries around the world because of Covid-19 led to a spike in e-commerce, causing greater demand than ever for shipping services. Alongside this, the industry experienced a significant labor shortage caused by factors including an aging workforce and delays in the administration of HGV driving tests.

This growth in demand driven by e-commerce has been a source of great opportunity for many businesses throughout the sector, despite the challenges posed by the labor shortage. We need to ensure that we have sustainable, long-term solutions to allow shipping and logistics businesses to continue to grow and meet this heightened demand.

As we look ahead to 2022, World Options is very optimistic that the challenges have been addressed and that the new year offers significant opportunities to those who can adapt and take advantage of market changes.

An inside perspective

World Options is an online shipping and courier services provider. Our customer base grew by 70% in 2021 due to the surge in e-commerce transactions caused by worldwide lockdowns. When vaccines began to roll out and lockdowns were lifted, it was great to see that demand remained well above its pre-pandemic levels.

The move to more internet-driven commerce is here to stay, which means that the industry must prepare for demand to continue to grow. The big challenge for companies in the shipping and logistics sector now is to meet this increasing demand; getting products where they need to be when they need to be there will continue to be critically important.

The challenges caused by the step change in business volumes have affected not only our shipping partners but also the wider industry. To overcome them, World Options believes it is more important than ever to stay abreast of the latest regulations and restrictions and to keep customers up to date and informed about any possible issues with their shipments.

Looking ahead to 2022

As we start out on a new year, we expect to see growth in the industry continue, in terms of e-commerce sales and the capacity of the logistics sector, so it’s an exciting time to be involved in shipping and logistics.

World Options understand that the UK government took steps to provide temporary visas for HGV drivers from the EU, enabling them to work in the UK for up to three months. We believe that the government will continue to look to provide solutions to attract skilled individuals into the UK to help alleviate the immediate pressure on the shipping industry, as this directly contributes to the economic recovery we have seen since the height of the pandemic.

Taking a longer view, we believe that the most sustainable way for the UK to manage this growth moving forward is to not only attract new talent into the shipping sector but also create opportunities for development and progression that will encourage those new workers to view shipping as a career. For this reason, it is great to see that the Department for Education has invested £10m (US$13.5m) to train 3,000 more HGV drivers in the UK, and the Ministry of Defence has provided personnel to increase capacity and tackle a backlog of candidates waiting to take their category C and category C&E driving tests. These proactive moves show that the government is keen to create a growth environment for the logistics sector, which is great news for all involved.

As an industry we must play our part and ensure that we are offering opportunities for talented workers to forge long-term careers at the same time as recruiting new drivers into the sector. As we rise to these challenges, we are sure that 2022 will be a very successful year for delivery and transport businesses.

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About Author

Howard McCormick is an experienced multi-modal logistics professional who joined the World Options management team in 2017. As a franchise owner within the courier industry, he has a strong background in logistics and has brought his wealth of experience to his role as the World Options UK franchise sales and recruitment director.

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