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Labour shortage ‘threatens ability to meet demand’ for logistics firms

WAREHOUSES and logistics firms in Milton Keynes, Bedford and Northampton are suffering from a serious skills shortage, says new research.

The figures, compiled by order management system specialist Mintsoft, found that vacancies for warehouse operative roles were up across the country, with Northampton reporting the fourth highest number of vacancies – 146 – on a single day in February.

Milton Keynes warehousing and logistics firms had 122 vacancies, while companies in Bedford were looking to fill 90 posts.

The continued e-commerce boom and a reduction in EU labour availability has left many firms struggling to find enough warehouse operatives to fulfill high order volumes. But analysis by Mintsoft shows that some regions are faring worse than others.

London tops the list for the highest number of unfilled vacancies at 233, according to live jobs board data compiled on February 21. 

Magna Park in Milton Keynes is a major regional logistics hub

Rob Hodgson, warehouse management systems and e-commerce fulfilment expert at Mintsoft, said: “Anyone who works in the industry knows how difficult it has become to recruit operatives but our data sheds light on the regional discrepancies. Competition for skills is particularly acute in Milton Keynes, making it difficult for businesses to meet demand and protect margins.

“The pandemic has changed consumer buying behaviour forever, which will continue to drive demand in the e-commerce and third party logistics sector. While this is clearly good news, it puts immense pressure on businesses, especially SMEs, to deliver at a time when increasing a headcount is not an option. 

“Third party logistics firms recognise this and are increasingly investing in their warehouse operations in order to make better use of their existing resources.”

Clare Bottle, chief executive at the UK Warehousing Association, said: “Today’s market is tougher than ever before for the warehousing sector. Labour shortages are no longer limited to the Christmas peak trading period nor are they restricted to warehousing’s famous ‘Golden Triangle’ in the East Midlands.

“In light of the failure of government to recognise or even mention the role of warehousing and logistics in last month’s Levelling Up white paper, this research is particularly timely, providing an important evidential basis for UKWA’s continued representation to policymakers for more support in the face of critical labour shortages.

“Indeed, a recent poll of our members confirmed that labour shortages are the number one concern for 2022.”

The UKWA’s national conference, which takes place next week (March 8-9), will focus on the theme of Building Tomorrow’s Workforce Today.

Read the full research report here.

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