How HGV bootcamps helped to ease a expertise disaster

How HGV bootcamps helped to ease a expertise disaster

Expertise bootcamps have been a rapid-fire response to shortages in key industries. Jason Noble shines a lightweight on HGV driver coaching to seek out out whether or not the strategy is working, and what it means for apprenticeships…

Again in the summertime and autumn of 2021, with Covid-19 an ever-present risk, the persistent scarcity of lorry drivers was making headlines.

It was simply certainly one of a number of industries dealing with a dire expertise scarcity. Nonetheless an ideal storm of lockdowns, a increase in on-line procuring and a post-Brexit exodus of EU drivers, noticed it turn out to be probably the most high-profile.

Grocery store cabinets emptied as lorry logjams grew. On the time, the Street Haulage Affiliation (RHA) estimated a shortfall of 100,000 drivers, prompting haulage corporations to supply beneficiant wages and four-figure sign-on bonuses.

By September, the federal government had established HGV driver expertise bootcamps to shortly get truckers educated and on the highway.

Its goal was for 3,000 new drivers on these 12-to-16-week programs, with an additional 1,000 drivers educated by way of the grownup schooling funds. Nearly £50 million has been invested to date.

So, 18 months on, has it labored?

Division for Schooling knowledge appears to recommend so. Figures for April 2021 to March 2022 indicated 4,740 folks started HGV bootcamps, though figures haven’t been printed for completers.

HGV driving check numbers additionally shot as much as just below 96,000 in 2021/22 in comparison with the 72,654 common within the 5 years previous to the pandemic.

Trade bosses say the state of affairs has improved however the growing older workforce, with many drivers of their 50s and 60s, means a scarcity stays.

How HGV bootcamps helped to ease a expertise disaster
Sally Gilson

“Whenever you have a look at the numbers, you see report numbers of individuals coaching and getting their licence, which is incredible. We at all times mentioned if the right coaching programme was accessible folks would do it, and lo and behold, that’s precisely what has occurred,” mentioned Sally Gilson, coverage lead for expertise and drivers on the RHA.

“It has not absolutely gone away… so we’ve got acquired one eye on the truth that yearly a considerable variety of drivers retire, so we do have to preserve the brand new blood coming in yearly, which is why we actually need to see the bootcamps not simply talked about for this 12 months or subsequent 12 months, we would like {that a} long run programme,” Gilson mentioned.

Whereas bootcamps have delivered the drivers wanted, some expertise suppliers have reported falling apprenticeship begins in HGV driving.

South Essex Faculty reported 219 learners throughout its three HGV driving bootcamps with 224 on apprenticeships in 2021/22, though a big employer moved 50 of these apprentices throughout to the bootcamp programme.

This 12 months, it has simply 15 apprentices. Jayne Sheehan, vice principal for the school’s centre for innovation mentioned that it wasn’t essentially all all the way down to the bootcamps and the cost-of residing disaster meant some drivers haven’t retired.

Flexibility and the relative pace of bootcamps make them engaging for learners. Whereas an apprenticeship programme lasts for at the least 12 months, a HGV licence will be secured in 16 weeks at a bootcamp.

Learners are additionally not required to do the maths and English purposeful expertise parts of an apprenticeship, one thing that may deter those that have had a foul expertise of schooling prior to now or for whom English will not be their first language.

Tony Higgins, managing director of System Folks, which has about 600 learners on bootcamps and 300 on apprenticeships, mentioned: “Our apprenticeship programme isn’t rising anymore and it was on an enormous upward projectile.

“The bootcamp has been largely answerable for that, however it really isn’t stunning as a result of it’s a extra versatile programme.

“We’re in all probability a few hundred apprentices down than we might be if there wasn’t the bootcamp at this time limit, perhaps greater than that. I’m not complaining concerning the bootcamp in any means, it’s simply the best way issues are.”

HGV bootcamps have been launched in 2021

Bootcamps can present employers with drivers extra shortly, and bootcamp suppliers don’t must be on the register of apprenticeship coaching suppliers, however there are monetary implications to contemplate too.

Sheehan mentioned: “For the large levy-paying firms it’s higher for them to make use of their levy to pay for the apprenticeship as a result of they don’t seem to be paying something out. If they’re doing the bootcamp they must pay a 30 per cent contribution so it does price them the place the apprenticeship didn’t.

“The bootcamp allowed individuals who wished to turn out to be lorry drivers a chance with out truly having an employer. That’s good in a technique as a result of it allowed these folks to get coaching totally free the place usually it could price them £3,000, probably extra relying on the licence they wished.”

However the bootcamps have additionally had one other profit.

“When the bootcamp was launched the infrastructure for driver testing simply wasn’t there,” Higgins defined, referencing the bottlenecks in getting checks.

“For suppliers it’s been a very arduous journey, though finally helpful and finally profitable. Bootcamps have had the knock-on impact of getting that infrastructure in place.”

The RHA delivers apprenticeships however not the bootcamps as a result of its infrastructure is about as much as ship native programmes slightly than a nationwide one. However Gilson mentioned the 12 month construction for the apprenticeship was “simply not a pure match, and the bootcamps have simply actually highlighted that” for a job like HGV driving – regardless of acknowledging the apprenticeship is a “gold customary” for drivers.

The RHA want to see flexibility within the apprenticeship levy to make use of on different coaching like expertise bootcamps too. It produced a foyer paper in August final 12 months explaining that suppliers want confidence bootcamps shall be accessible long run as a way to spend money on them, which levy reform might assist with.

It will additionally support smaller haulage corporations which wrestle to launch apprentices for his or her off-the-job coaching.

Gilson added: “I believe there’s definitely the choice of doing a six month apprenticeship – why does each apprenticeship must be a minimal of 12 months? We’re caught in such a regimental really feel in relation to coaching. We have now acquired so many alternative expertise shortages – that is going to be the most important factor over the following few years.”

Sheehan mentioned that extra flexibility within the grownup schooling funds might additionally assist.

“In devolved areas you are able to do HGV driving through AEB however you may’t in non-devolved areas, for those who have been in a position to make use of AEB funding I don’t suppose as a university we would want the bootcamp,” she defined.

Kevin Birch

However removed from bootcamps that means there is no such thing as a place for apprenticeships for HGV drivers, all of the suppliers FE Week spoke to mentioned it was essential apprenticeships weren’t eradicated by the bootcamps.

Kevin Birch, director at TRS Coaching Ltd which is delivering round 200 bootcamps and 450 apprenticeships, mentioned that the coaching is “much more in depth” on the apprenticeship.

“The apprenticeship additionally contains mentoring coaching so as soon as they go their check they exit with one of many employers’ trainers or mentors and so they bodily drive the car below supervision from the mentor in reside deliveries. That’s actually vital and isn’t a part of a bootcamp,” he mentioned.

As well as, these on the apprenticeship route are “extra rounded” drivers on the finish of their course in comparison with the top of the bootcamp, as bootcamp completers “to all intents and functions they’re nonetheless a novice driver till they get that mentor coaching,” he defined.

Higgins added: “The apprenticeships are nonetheless our most well-liked route. I believe particularly as a result of it’s a stage 2 occupation there’s probably a risk from shorter programmes, and that may turn out to be the popular route, the conventional route, and I believe we are going to lose one thing if that occurs.

“Having mentioned that, it’s good to have a various route into the business as a result of it’s much less unique and it has undoubtedly offered extra alternative as a result of these folks wouldn’t have been in a position to enter through the apprenticeship route or afford to enter themselves.”

Time will inform how lengthy the bootcamps will final, however within the HGV driver sector the quick programs seem to have offered a much-needed surge in new drivers.

Bootcamps and apprenticeships have, to date co-existed, however sector chiefs will little doubt be paying shut consideration to the numbers over the following few years to make sure apprenticeships nonetheless retain their “gold customary” in coaching.