The Autumn Statement and Spending Review outlined by the Chancellor, George Osborne yesterday failed to acknowledge the requirement for proper funding for training professional drivers.
In reply, the Freight Transport Association (FTA) stated that road transport operators are facing a huge problem of hiring qualified professional drivers with a current shortage of around 45,000 needed to fill the gap in the UK. And with no official funding mechanism for HGV training that can cost up to £3,000, the situation is only going to get worse.
Sally Gilson, FTA Skills Development Manager said: “FTA is deeply concerned that without the proper funding for training the driver shortage problem is going to get worse. The average age of a professional lorry driver is 52 and the freight industry is desperate to engage with young people. There must be a route available for people wanting a career as a driver – without access to apprenticeships this issue will only be exacerbated.”
Within the Spending Review the Chancellor announced that three million apprentices would be in place by 2020, and that to ensure large businesses share the cost of training the workforce, he will introduce a new apprenticeship levy from April 2017. But a decision to reject training standards for LGV drivers was made by the Minister of Skills – Nick Boles, earlier this year.
Gilson concluded: “With an apprenticeship for HGV driver’s post 2017 still in the balance, it seems as though the Chancellor expects large companies to fund apprenticeships that they may not be able to provide unless the Skills Minister reverses his earlier decision to reject HGV apprenticeships.
“Setting a target of three million apprenticeships will not plug the significant skills shortages that the freight industry is currently experiencing. There has already been an 11% spending cut to the adult skills budget so for those who do not fit into an apprenticeship, mainly the over 24’s, funding is near impossible to find.
“Although the Chancellor announced that the Advanced 24+ loan would be extended to 19-23 year olds, the crucial change needed for the logistics sector is to expand the loan to cover Level 2 qualifications, therefore opening this up to HGV tests.”
Engineering is currently the most difficult job to fill in the UK and driving the third hardest. In its Autumn Statement submission the FTA had asked the Chancellor to support industry-led training schemes and student loan-type arrangements for those seeking to acquire vocational skills, adding that Government funding for improved roadside facilities, including lorry parks, would make the industry a more attractive prospective employer.