The queues in April 2022 around the port of Dover are at their worst since January 2020. They eased slightly as Easter arrived but still affected travel, with P&O often blamed following their actions.
P&O was a factor, along with the weather, although similar issues are to be seen at airports and on railways. Computer system failures haven’t helped, or trains out of action and engineering works but there is a deeper cause.
Staff shortages are at the root of transport problems, as they are in the hospitality sector, building industry, health services and more.
Pressure increased through overly optimistic booking policies from suppliers but most are clear on the underlying reason for delay. They have been unable to find staff who play critical roles in their operation.
The Post Pandemic Era
At one time, our greatest fear from the Covid-19 pandemic was a loss of jobs and high unemployment. That didn’t happen and over a million job vacancies were available in early 2022, although a fair percentage can’t be filled.
Around the same number of people are actively looking for employment but they may not be in the right place, or match available posts.
Brexit has been blamed and can be for about a third of the labour market shortfall. Covid added to the issue, with more older staff taking early retirement and younger workers choosing to stay in education.
Long Covid also keeps people off work, or others caring for them in serious cases. The last few years have been a time of change and of an unwelcome pandemic but the UK is not alone in this, yet the outcome here is unusual.
A Practical Shortfall
Roles which at one time were straightforward, now have a greater need for technology and people skills. The UK has some of the lowest training and retraining rates in the developed world, especially in hard hit areas such as retail and hospitality.
The UK is the world’s 5th largest economy but 1 in 5 UK children leave primary school unable to read or write properly, a position 8 million adults share.
We can blame government policy, or commerce, there are large companies who complain about finding recruits with suitable skills, whilst not investing in training. Rather than blame, we might be better to focus on solutions.
Government and corporate investment in child and adult education need to increase, the post Brexit policy on overseas workers isn’t helping. There are still other options to pursue, which do reduce the problem.
Natural Skills Development
If you are marooned on a desert island, you can’t learn from anyone else. Should you just be a number in a large workforce, the same can apply.
Military organisations and tech companies from Oracle to Google have long understood the advantages of team working. The benefits optimal size of operation bring include retention, performance and skills transference.
Formal education is important, as is in work training but people in human society were learning from each other before they existed. Often in reasonably sized units, with direct communication and natural bonds.
The Removals Industry
Our sector contains a high number of small operators, who are often fine people and do their best but service can be restricted. In the few large operators, the focus can be too corporate, costs may match this and they have recruitment issues.
Farrer & Fenwick sit neatly in the middle, where we choose to be. There are others the same and life may not always be perfect but we do share advantages.
The services our customers need are readily available, costs to them are reasonable and satisfaction high. Our staff tend to stay, they know each other, help each other, learn from each other in a friendly, practical way.
We do provide training, not least on safety aspects but development through interaction and team spirit is equally successful and enjoyable.
Covid and Brexit have not helped, there are workforce shortages but the world was changing anyway. The skills match problem is a real cause of the delays at ports, or airports and shortfalls in other services.
Some large businesses have worked on this and seen the benefits of human sized teams. Perhaps not the only answer but one we could all adopt, to bring improvement for our workers and the customers they serve.