An innovative new scheme launched by Oldham Council to support people in warehouse work to get higher-paid jobs as drivers has been praised by industry leaders.
The Warehouse to Wheels programme, which sees the local authority’s Get Oldham Working team partnered with leading driver training provider Mantra Learning Limited to boost the skills of workers in the warehouse and logistics industry, is being hailed as a cutting-edge way to address the shortage of Large Goods Vehicle (LGV) drivers in the borough.
Jim McMahon, Oldham Council Leader, spoke about the scheme at a Drivers Shortage Crisis Forum (Friday, March 20) at Mantra’s Chadderton headquarters, alongside leading national and regional figures.
The forum included talks from Alex Farkas (Department for Work and Pensions’ National Head for Logistics), Steve Biddle (Road Haulage Association’s Regional Director) and Mark Currie (Mantra’s Chief Executive).
It highlighted that the industry nationally is around 60,000 drivers short and only approximately 20,000 new drivers are being trained a year.
Since Warehouse to Wheels’ launch in September, 2014, Mantra has been training existing warehouse or other staff within small and medium enterprise companies (SMEs) in the borough to obtain the vital Category C Large Goods Vehicle licence.
The scheme contains a combined investment of more than £200,000 from Oldham Council, the Skills Funding Agency and the European Social Fund (ESF).
Transport and warehousing is one of the largest growing sectors in Oldham – accounting for 4.4 per cent of the business in the borough.
This is an industry projected to grow by 20 per cent in Oldham with an additional 1,800 jobs set to be created as the local economy grows.
Warehouse to Wheels addresses a critical issue that is hugely affecting the industry – the shortage of qualified drivers.
Councillor McMahon said: “The lack of qualified LGV drivers is not just here in Oldham – it’s across the country.
“There are hard-working individuals in this crucial industry who want to get on in life and do better for themselves and their families – but they cannot afford to obtain the relevant licence – with an average cost totalling £1,800 including VAT.
“In Oldham, we chose to do something about this and introduced our Warehouse to Wheels scheme – which is a way of supporting those in low paid employment who are doing their bit to get on in life.
“With the right driving qualification hardworking residents can earn an additional £7,000 a year – that’s potentially around £148,000 over a working life.
“It’s about councils using their money wiser and by investing in skills – it helps residents advance their careers and helps Oldham businesses and the local economy to grow.”