The impact of Covid has been felt throughout the CV industry. Some sectors have, clearly, been negatively hit, others have grown, and all have had to adapt. It has pushed us to alter established processes and changed the way many businesses operate. This forced evolution has been backed by public and private investment and has led to several opportunities for companies seeking to recruit for diverse roles within a rapidly advancing industry.
In March, for example, Ocado announced a 40% surge in sales in the three months prior, with revenues growing to £599m in the 13 weeks to February 28. This is following an extension of its tie-ups with high street grocers Waitrose and Marks & Spencer. Deliveroo, too, has broadened its customer base throughout the lockdowns as supermarkets have sought ways to meet the rising demand for home deliveries. The latest innovative partnership of this type has been announced by Wincanton, which has started operations at a new Customer Fulfilment Centre (CFC) for Waitrose.com, also known as a ‘dark store’.
The dark store will help fulfil the continued demand for home delivery slots and, once fully operational, will help to create 800 new jobs as staff pick 1.25m products a week to be delivered using an additional 150 new vans. The grocer stated that its online sales now account for a fifth of the company’s business, as opposed to 6% a year earlier. Wincanton CEO James Wroath said, of the growing opportunity, “Dark stores will play a huge role in helping supply chains adapt to meet a new set of expectations as more retail purchases are made online and they will better enable businesses to serve customers, at scale.”
XPO Logistics this month announced a new deal with online retailer ASOS that would result in 2,000 new jobs based at a fulfilment centre in Lichfield, Staffordshire. Similarly, Hermes announced a £100m strategy last summer that would result in more than 10,500 new jobs as demand for deliveries soared during the pandemic: a growth of 200 million packages in 2020. According to Hermes UK chief operating officer Carl Lyon, “The pandemic and lockdown restrictions have expedited the already significant growth of online shopping and we are continuing to make bold investments to ensure we can continue to meet current and future demand.”
Europa Worldwide Group has also increased investment to meet demand in this area: £60m in its 25-acre state-of-the-art Corby facility to support its logistics operations, to complement a new RAPID Career Development Programme and recruitment drive designed to inspire the next generation of transport and logistics professionals.
Europa’s early careers talent manager, Lana Jay, who throughout March visited schools to discuss opportunities within the industry, explains: “The pandemic has shone a light on logistics, creating a huge opportunity for us to share more information on the career choices available within the industry with schools and universities across the UK. We have received an overwhelming response from graduates who are now going through an interview process and are continuing to promote the opportunity to school-leavers who still have until the end of April to submit their applications.”
Up to 70 graduates are now in the interview process with up to 39 places on the programme available.
Such recruitment programmes and apprenticeship schemes have been backed by the British International Freight Association (BIFA), which two weeks ago publicly supported the government’s pledge to incentivise the hiring of apprentices: each employer receives £3,000 for any new apprentice who joins between April and the end of September.
“The latest increase in funding support is a further reason for our members to consider the apprenticeship pathway as a means of adding fresh talent to the industry,” said BIFA executive director, Carl Hobbis. “For SMEs, the programme can cost as little as £450 per apprentice, and includes a BTEC qualification for the apprentice as well, which makes it great value.”
Confirming the opportunities within road freight, Welsh haulier Speed Welshpool invested £1.1m in its fleet over the last year and began a recruitment drive for new drivers. Managing director George Edwards described the move as being, “By far our single largest investment and demonstrates our commitment to better serve our customers and staff. It’s well-known there’s a driver shortage in the industry and that’s why we need to do all we can to attract and retain the best staff through the provision of market-leading equipment and infrastructure.”
Bus and coach positivity
While some sectors have adapted to growing demand, others have been required to robustly adjust to low passenger numbers. The bus and coach sector, which has been severely impacted by lockdowns, for example, has found new ways to survive: provision of vaccine-based services are synonymous with the need for change.
Fortunately, the transition to alternative fuels has provided the sector with cause for longer-term focus. Funding for Wrightbus has helped secure an additional 3,000 jobs at its Ballymena centre of excellence, where the company will further develop its hydrogen buses. On the rollout of the world’s first hydrogen double decker for First Group in Aberdeen, Wrightbus owner and executive chairman, Jo Bamford, explained, “These buses represent much more than Aberdeen striving to reach a clean air, zero-carbon future. They represent the start of what could be a world-leading hydrogen economy here in Scotland, which will bring with it multi-million pound investments and tens of thousands of jobs.”
First Group also sees the advent of electrified powertrain as having just as positive an impact on employment figures within the sector. A collaboration by the operator, Alexander Dennis Ltd and BYD UK announced last month is just one of the programmes advancing the development and rollout of electrified buses, which the company says will provide “a massive boost for the sector and helping to secure jobs in the local area.”
“First Bus is showing a welcome commitment to helping meet Scotland’s world leading climate change targets,” said Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity, Michael Matheson. “It’s a real success story that these buses will be built by ADL in Falkirk – supporting jobs in bus manufacturing and benefiting the wider economy before they enter service for communities across Glasgow.”
Safeguarding and a flexible recruitment approach to maintaining operations
The SMMT launched its Safe Harbour Scheme to help sustain jobs during the pandemic and protect the manufacturing industry. It enabled companies to collaborate to support critical suppliers and demonstrated the need for many companies to adapt in order to survive. It was introduced as a way to combat the 14,000 sector jobs (including wider automotive) that were estimated to have been lost during the first nine months of 2020.
Another such example of adaptation and evolution has been demonstrated by Avail Technologies, which provides a recruitment platform that enables haulage operators to reduce costs in the face of potentially turbulent demand for their services.
Of the platform’s ability to negate the need for short-term contracts from traditional recruitment agencies, and by way of providing additional positivity for future outlook, Company founder Erin Short explained, “The pandemic has had a major impact on supply chains and the haulage industry. By improving efficiency and enabling them to recruit drivers remotely, our platform has helped firms to keep going in these uncertain times. With continued pressure on costs, it is all the more important for operators to minimise unnecessary expenses like recruitment fees to enable them to maintain profits and improve drivers’ wages.”