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National logistics provider Canute Group has joined forces with hardware and home goods retailer Wilko, a major customer, to launch a new driver apprenticeship scheme.
The move is in response to the growing driver shortage crisis.
The scheme, centred on Wilko depots at Nottinghamshire and South Wales, aims to give a new generation of would-be drivers the chance to overcome the rising costs of entering the industry, as well as securing a steady supply of skilled drivers for Canute.
It was developed Nicola Martin, systems and process manager on Canute’s Wilko contract, who realised the introduction of the compulsory Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) in 2014 would lead to a nationwide driver shortage and began looking for ways to mitigate the impact on Canute.
Ms Martin said: “We knew a lot of drivers would retire when the certificate came in, either because they didn’t want to go through the training or couldn’t afford it. Anticipating the potential skills gap, we saw it as a good opportunity to start attracting younger people into our industry at entry-level.”
The two companies contracted apprenticeship specialist Fleet Master to set up a framework for training drivers and took on their first two apprentices last April.
There are now six apprentices in Manton Wood and two in Magor, with the scheme is targeting the 18-13 year-old age group – the recent Driver Shortage Survey 2016 conducted by returnloads.net found that just 3% of the UK HGV drivers are aged between 18 and 25; while 54% are aged over 46 years.
However, 18-23 year-olds are able to benefit from full training on Category B Licences before progressing in their first year to Category C and C+E Licence for Class 2 and 1 vehicles, and becoming a fully qualified HGV driver within two years.
The apprentices also produce course work for the Quality Credit Framework (QCF), which is similar to NVQ qualifications, aiming to reach QCF Level 2 in Driving Goods Vehicles within the first year, and the Transport Freight by Road QCF within their second year – of the six apprentices in Manton Wood, two have already achieved their Class 1 (C+E) licence with a 100% pass rate, and three have attained their Class 2 (C) licence with an 80% pass rate.
The apprentices also spend time shadowing the transport manager and the health & safety and driver training departments.
Hollie Ridley (pictured above), a 23-year-old apprentice, has just completed her Class 1 and 2, and said: “The scheme is brilliant, extremely fast paced when I look back – it’s only been nine months and I already have my C & C+E licence.
“The apprenticeship advisor, the trainers and the senior management team have been unbelievably good with us as they know how it feels to be up and coming in the heavy goods industry. The sense of security and satisfaction in my job is unreal!”
Once qualified, the apprentices are given three-year employment contracts with Canute, and Ms Martin said the scheme opened up the industry to many who might not otherwise be able to afford to train for it.
“Licence acquisition is very expensive, so giving someone that opportunity and the relevant training means giving them a career for life, and it’s great to be able to make that difference to someone.
“We would be delighted if other hauliers provided these schemes; for a small investment, it’s a great return,” she said.