West Midlands employment driving ahead
Demand for drivers for the transport industry is driving employment in the West Midlands, the latest employment outlook survey for workforce experts ManpowerGroup has found.
The survey's national outlook hits a five-year low of plus four per cent, but employers in the West Midlands are defying the gloom with an outlook of plus 12 per cent, the region’s strongest in four years.
The outlook is based on responses from 2,102 UK employers. It asks whether employers intend to hire additional workers or reduce the size of their workforce in the coming quarter. It is the most comprehensive, forward-looking employment survey of its kind and is used as a key economic statistic by both the Bank of England and the UK government.
Jason Greaves, operations director at Manpower, said: “The West Midlands is beginning 2018 on top form with its strongest outlook since 2014, following a brief dip in confidence last quarter.
He said demand for drivers was not only coming from the transport sector.
"We are also seeing a sustained need from manufacturing where, for example, forklift truck drivers are regularly required.
“At this time of year, drivers are in especially high demand but in very short supply, and scarcity of candidates can be a real issue for transport and delivery companies. Employers need to make sure that they are in tune with candidate availability and preferences.
"Nowadays the balance of power has shifted and candidates have a great deal of choice to decide how, where, and for how much they will work. They prefer higher rates of pay and are becoming less willing to travel for opportunities. Employers need to look carefully at their workforce planning and salary benchmarking to assess whether they are still competitive.”
As well as driving performance in the region the Midlands Engine is also fuelling the national transport sector, which has seen a 10-point leap in hiring intentions, to plus 12 per cent, as rising demand combines with the trend of employers “stockpiling” permanent employees to avoid the pressure of a Brexit exodus on an aging workforce.
James Hick, managing director for ManpowerGroup Solutions, said: “The transport sector is a key outlier in the dreary national picture. With online purchases accounting for £2 in every £5 of spending over the festive period, there is an immediate pressing need for professional drivers.
"This quarter the driver shortage is more acute than ever, thanks to a shrinking pool of talent. Combined with the skyrocketing demand, it is driving up pay significantly – many companies are having to pay premiums of up to 20 per cent on their standard rates for drivers. With so many EU workers employed in driving and logistics roles, employers are already mindful of the cliff edge scenario of exiting EU workers that may accompany Brexit.
"We are therefore seeing companies in the transport sector 'stockpiling' drivers by signing them up for permanent contracts ahead of May 2019.”