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Why HGV Driving Apprenticeships Are Good for Business

29 June 2022  | 
by Sara O'Brien

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Let’s hear from Sara O’Brien, Transport & Logistics Sales Director at Instep UK about why HGV Driving Apprenticeships are Good for Business.

While HGV driver numbers continue to dwindle due to COVID, Brexit, IR35 and a lack of younger people entering the transport sector, there is evidence we’re starting to see green shoots coming up from the mud with the driver shortage numbers are stabilising.

Although great news, there is still work to do to protect our national driving workforces.

Over the past couple of years, the UK has undergone major changes in the driver population. Further exacerbating the issue was an unprecedented movement of experienced HGV drivers moving between employers. Retention and wage wars became the norm, leaving transport businesses scrambling to replace drivers while struggling to fill ongoing driver vacancies due to pensioning out and a lack of younger workers to fill the voids.

This is where HGV apprenticeship programmes can help. They offer a welcome business solution to many UK companies.

Why HGV Apprenticeships?

Companies are trying to develop a long-term strategy after spending many months of uncertainty playing whack-a-mole to fill immediate driver vacancies. But this strategy provided little relief in planning for the future.

There is now a step-change happening. Transport managers, logistics operators, and HR and resourcing teams can exhale a little and start to plan strategically and mitigate against driver shortages in the future.

And recent times have shown how positive change is on the horizon.  We’re now seeing a more diverse driver-entrant to the market, thanks in part to driver apprenticeship programmes.

Those of us who work in apprenticeships know very well that HGV apprenticeships aren’t just for the young. The oldest Apprentice I’ve come cross in my 11 years in the sector is 63. Never too old to learn. But you can be too young to drive.

So let’s dig a bit deeper.

There is so much more to the journey of an HGV apprenticeship than just acquiring your licence.

HGV Apprenticeships Offer Real Training and Mentoring, Not Just a Licence

Let’s look at why apprentice drivers are of such value to businesses and drivers.

Yes, an HGV apprenticeship is a longer training process than the traditional five-day commercial driver training route we’re all familiar with. That five-day training is still important.

But heavy goods vehicle apprenticeship programmes give businesses and learners alike a much more enhanced set of skills, knowledge, and behaviours to follow. Acquired under the security blanket of an apprenticeship and post-licence training, newly qualified drivers have additional layers of support from the apprenticeship training partner

Newly qualified drivers are more than ever an attractive recruitment choice. Driver apprenticeship programmes provide the company and the learner the time and space to practice, embed and demonstrate their skills, knowledge, and behaviours as a new driver in a safe, structured and controlled way over a longer period of time.

HGV apprenticeships also give drivers a real feel for what it’s like on the job. A five-day training can’t teach you that.

Employers also get to customise the programme content. With the flexibility of being able to integrate an organisation’s internal driver training, competency, and compliance standards into the apprenticeship, learning encompasses more than just licence acquisition. Companies can also instill their own values and policies while giving learners practical tips for heavy hauling.

That’s where these apprenticeship programmes deliver added value through a protected learning experience. The company sees increased employee engagement and retention while being able to help minimise new-driver incidents and infringements.

A driving apprenticeship is more than just passing the driving test. And being an HGV driver is more than just driving a big lorry.

HGV Apprenticeships Teach More Than Just Driving

 Employers have raised their expectations and what they want from their driving workforces.

New drivers, regardless of their age, are more commonly expected to not only just know how to safely and efficiently drive a lorry. They are also expected to be brand ambassadors, customer service specialists, and problem-solvers for their organisations. Often, HGV drivers are first on scene for motorway incidents, so add First Aider to that list!

Drivers often come into direct contact with customers more frequently than many of their employer’s leadership and support teams do. Therefore, a level of customer service is vital. Who knows when a driver is speaking with the CEO of a critical customer when making a delivery?

Being proactive and finding solutions to day-to-day challenges on trunk roads and urban streets filled with daily obstacles and quirks can be the difference in avoiding a hazard and making a delivery on time. Every driver should be equipped with problem-solving skills.

Understanding Other Driver Requirements

Effective communication is vital for drivers of the future as they learn from their mentors through an HGV apprenticeship. This evolutionary passing on of skills is critical to sustain good practices, behaviours and raising performance standards of performance. The need for these essential jobs won’t go away any time soon because 98% of us rely on HGV drivers to transport and deliver our food and other consumer products throughout the UK.  And the ability to communicate, share information, mentor, provide feedback and offer coaching support are all part of fundamental skills development for HGV drivers.

Physical health, mental health, and overall wellbeing are all vital to our quality of life. Understanding the significance of optimum health in any driving role will help new drivers take care of themselves and be safe on the road, protecting themselves and others.

These are just a few examples of the learning requirements channelled through a high-quality HGV apprenticeship.

Diversity Presents Another Key

Let’s not forget the positive impact that increased diversity brings to a business. We’re seeing a big change in demographics in HGV drivers. More women, younger age groups, people from less advantaged backgrounds all bring a different dynamic to the role of an HGV driver. These changes are hugely welcomed by the sector and championed by many independent groups and sector-based organisations.

Diversity and inclusivity sit at the heart of many transport and logistics companies’ strategic objectives. Alongside their social value and responsibility, the impact of engaging in HGV apprenticeships opens up a route for thousands of people outside of the traditional driver demographic for many who wouldn’t have been able to access the opportunity due to the costs of training.

How HGV Apprenticeships Future-Proof the Workforce

HGV apprenticeships are not designed as an immediate solution to filling driver vacancies and shouldn’t be looked at as such. HGV apprenticeships should be part of an employer’s short-, medium- and long-term workforce development plan. They will future-proof a driving workforce, respond to business growth, and mitigate driver turnover in the short term as well as alleviate risks of driver shortages in the future.

In 2021, there were 134,000 HGV drivers aged between 50-64 compared to 118,000 in 2016, an increase of 16,000 (14%) in just five years. There were just 99,000 HGV drivers aged 35-49 compared to 111,000 in 2016, a decrease of 12,000. These numbers would suggest more people moved from the younger age bracket into the older one, except the 25-35 age group didn’t increase by the same amount over that same five-year period.

*Source Annual Population Survey

HGV apprenticeships help companies to grow the volume of drivers over a sustained period of time. These programmes also respond to the assumption that the sector again faces a future shortage based on the past five years’ age demographic trends.

That’s why employers should act now and look closely at their existing workforces and embrace re-skilling non-drivers, perhaps those colleagues working warehousing, distribution or administration teams, through HGV apprenticeships. Those workers are already within the auspices of those logistics employers.

Existing colleagues are easy to engage as they bring a high level of loyalty and commitment because of their years of service. Throw in a development opportunity their employer has given them, and they are more likely to readily adopt the driver capabilities that employers want and need for the future and remain with their employer reducing retention risks

Alongside internal recruitment and external recruitment of HGV trainees, onboarding to an apprenticeship brings fresh ideas, skills, and experience to the business.

Driving Apprenticeships Solve Problems

Creating driving apprenticeship development opportunities not only solves a business issue in driver skills but also creates an unprecedented level of social mobility and a significant change in lifestyle for many of those individuals and their families. In some cases, these opportunities have just never been unattainable to them before.  These types of testimonials show the huge appreciation many newly trained drivers have for the opportunity given to them by their employers. Praise of new trainees provide a huge asset for any organisation looking for new recruits.

Employers should look beyond the here and now in terms of driver training. Yes, you may face a labour shortage when replacing staff from warehouse or operations departments who move into driver roles. But with strong planning and the support of a great HGV apprenticeship training partner, this positive and proactive career development strategy plays straight into the heart of a people-centric culture. Wider logistics apprenticeship programmes can then be used to back-fill roles thanks to early career strategies as part of the plan for maintaining the proper staffing levels and implementing robust workforce development plans.

Instep UK Can Help With HGV Apprenticeships

Change is necessary to evolve, and the transport and logistics sector is no different.  We are at a critical but exciting point in HGV driver evolution. This is when transport teams, driver trainers, HR and L&D highlight what sets their organisation apart while seeing the return on investment and their programmes’ impact on the company and their people.

With the right HGV apprenticeship partner, commitment from key stakeholders across the business, and the willingness to create a collaborative culture, HGV apprenticeships are integral to any short, medium and long-term driver training plan.

Instep UK’s transport and logistics team have over 150 years of collective industry experience. Our commitment and passion for supporting businesses and individuals alike are unrivaled in the industry.

For more information on how driving Apprenticeships can work for your business please contact me, Sara O’Brien, Sector Director, Transport & Logistics at Instep UK on 07306 888072 or email me at sobrien@instepuk.com

Get in touch!