In it for the long haul

Changing the perceptions of logistics in the Tees Valley

The logistics sector is struggling to attract the talent it needs, not only to sustain future growth but also to maintain current levels of employment.

The haulage industry alone needs to recruit around 60,000 drivers to address current labour shortages. If you consider port and rail sectors as well, this number is much larger.

Various factors have led to this shortfall, compounded by lower numbers of EU workers opting to work in the UK and an ageing workforce. The logistics sector also has an image problem. It is still perceived that all the sector has to offer is low paid, unskilled manual work, which simply isn’t the case.

When people think of logistics the first thing that often comes to mind is driving. However, logistics can be anything from rail to shipping and air freight. The opportunities in the sector are huge, especially with the growth in the renewables and offshore wind sectors – and Teesside finds itself at the heart of this revolution.

One business that’s certainly seeing this is Teesside-based AV Dawson. The firm operates a 100-acre port facility in Middlesbrough, offering a full logistics service including port operations, the largest independent rail terminal in the North-East and extensive road transport services. It is also home to 38 tenants including Prysmian Group, one of the world’s largest suppliers of offshore cable.

AV Dawson has been looking at ways to change perceptions and promote the sector as an attractive career prospect. The River Tees, on which the company operates, is the lifeblood of the area, supporting sectors from the chemical industry to offshore and renewables’ manufacturers.

It should come as no surprise, as one of the largest rivers in the region, the Tees is the biggest exporting river in England by gross tonnage. However, jobs in the logistics sector supporting these industries remain relatively unrecognised.

Anthony Suddes, AV Dawson’s marketing manager, says: “I spend a proportion of my time, along with other colleagues in the business, promoting AV Dawson and the logistics sector.

“It is important that pupils from primary school through to university understand there are opportunities for them in this region and we need ambassadors to talk passionately and positively to promote the sector.

“We do this in a variety of ways, including teaching in schools, colleges and universities, along with providing apprenticeships, work experience and site tours.

“It’s important to understand that logistics is a diverse sector. It’s not just driving, you can work in a number of areas, from finance to marketing, train driving to ship piloting – the opportunities are endless. We need to stem the tide of migrating skills, retaining a skilled workforce in the area. We can do this by changing perceptions.

“We are heavily involved with the community, with 95 per cent of our employees coming from the Tees Valley, and we want to give back to the area in which we operate through community initiatives and charities. We are particularly focused on improving our environmental credentials. This is becoming increasingly important when candidates search for a prospective employer, especially with the younger generation.

“We sit on the local advisory board of the Tees Valley Logistics Academy, looking for ways to positively promote the logistics sector in the region, and are closely linked with the High Tide Foundation, a charity that promotes careers available in the Tees Valley. We take full advantage of the apprenticeship levy and work closely with the armed forces to recruit ex-service personnel.

“However, it’s important to retain the colleagues we have, so we strive to improve our working environment, upskilling our workforce and launching our emotional health and wellbeing program to promote positive mental health in the workplace.

“The Tees Valley is an exciting place to work, full of opportunity, especially in the logistics sector. If we continue to promote and talk positively, those perceptions will change sooner rather than later.”

  • Pictured above is AV Dawson transport manager Paul Scott.

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