ECONOMIST: Young people in Kent solution to HGV driver crisis
Friday 8th October 2021
YOUNG people across the county have been encouraged to take up lorry driver jobs amid recent fuel supply shortages across the country, writes Ciaran Duggan.
Queues have formed outside petrol stations and garages in the borough as the HGV sector faces a significant workforce shortfall to deliver the fuel.
David Smith, Kent County Council’s (KCC) economic director, said one of the hardest industries hit by the pandemic was lorry driving.
Mr Smith told a panel of county councillors on Tuesday (Sep 21): “There are very significant shortages in some sectors like HGV drivers.”
This comes as youth unemployment for residents, aged 18 to 24, has nearly doubled from 4.8% to 7.8% across Kent’s 13 districts, including Medway, from March 2020 to June 2021.
Thousands of young adults living in the county are claiming job seeker benefits, such as universal credit, to pay for food and housing.
Chiefs at KCC, whose services cater to 1.6million people in the area, explored oine potential solution.
It was suggested that more young people could put themselves forward for roles, with labour shortages faced by the HGV sector.
At the meeting in the main council chamber of Sessions House, Mr Smith added: “One would have thought young people would be very suited to it.
“But I think there is a more structural problem in the way young people see those professions.”
Meanwhile, Boris Johnson’s government announced a temporary visa scheme to make it easier for foreign drivers to work in the UK as fuel deliveries remain disrupted and some petrol stations closed. About 5,000 visas may be issued.
However, England union bosses say that working standards for lorry drivers must improve to prevent staff from being unfairly exploited.
The UK’s leading union, Unite, said drivers should receive a pay increase while working conditions made less stressful to encourage more recruitment within the country, rather than solely relying on workers from overseas countries.
Unite national officer for road transport, Adrian Jones, said: “By plundering workers from other nations, the government is propping up a broken and exploitative system.
“Kicking these issues into the long grass instead of taking decisive steps now will only create worse disruption down the line.”
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