The image of the ‘white van man’ – the Transit-sized delivery van filling your rearview mirror – is something the logistics industry is keen to dispel.
One of the sector’s key employers, Office Depot, has a team of drivers and a fleet of more than 300 vehicles delivering to business addresses across the country. The majority of its drivers use light commercial goods vehicles, but many of them have only their original driving test to denote any driving-related training. The lack of formal qualifications for these drivers had been a source of considerable concern.
The sector skills council for the logistics industry, Skills for Logistics, partnered with employers and awarding body Awards UK. Together they formulated a new NVQ Level 2 vocational qualification for carrying and delivering goods, aimed at promoting national standards.
With the qualification, Skills for Logistics wanted to attract new people into the industry to build a skilled, reliable workforce, boosting the public perception of drivers nationwide and improving commercial success.
Since the qualifications were developed in consultation with employers, businesses can be confident that they ensure the right skills development, training and education, which are relevant and appropriate for their business, addressing specific skills and training gaps.
The new qualification takes an holistic approach to the skills required of a driver of light vehicles, vans, motorbikes or bicycles. These jobs now involve multi-drop deliveries, customer interaction and in some cases, dealing with financial transactions. Employees are trained to develop good customer service skills, complete pre- and post-delivery routines and plan routes and timings for journeys as part of the qualification.
Office Depot has found that the opportunity to demonstrate that it has a skilled workforce has been good for both individuals and the business.
The investment in training has boosted morale and made employees more effective in their work. Feedback from drivers who have taken the qualification has been very positive, reports the company. Many had few or no qualifications from their schooldays – sometimes 30 years ago – but were surprised at how much they enjoyed working towards the NVQ.
Alongside the qualification, drivers at Office Depot can also complete safe and fuel-efficient driving training, which results in reduced fuel consumption, with huge bottom-line benefits.
Office Depot is one of the first national employers to enrol its drivers for the qualification and one of its employees is the first in the country to gain the award. So far, 65 Office Depot drivers have completed the qualification, with another 140 registered.
The aim is for all Office Depot drivers to have the qualification, boosting the skills in the business and helping to ensure consistently high standards in a fiercely competitive marketplace.
“The new NVQ has fulfilled a really important role for us,” says Matt Burton, learning and development manager, UK and Ireland supply chain at Office Depot. “It has meant that our drivers have been able to get a nationally recognised, business-relevant qualification.”
Burton’s vision is for all of the company’s drivers to go through the training, adding to the professionalism of its service, and also the bottom line.
“Skills for Logistics plays a vital role in working with employers to drive the agenda forward,” he concludes.
1 Skills for Logistics has the active backing of more than 100 of the UK’s top freight transport businesses, as well as the leading trade bodies and trade unions.
2 There are about two million light vans in the UK.
3 So far, 65 Office Depot drivers have completed the qualification, with another 140 registered.
4 Office Depot transport sites that have put drivers through the qualification have found they have better staff retention and higher productivity since they began the qualifications.
“The industry has been crying out for this sort of skill-specific qualification. Any form of vocational training that improves our ability to operate in a global marketplace has to make good business sense. We would wholeheartedly recommend this training to any company involved in the delivery of goods by light vehicles, whose job role involves multi-drop deliveries, customer interaction and dealing with financial transactions.”
Jo Cocks, senior learning and development officer, Office Depot
“With just under two million light vans on the road, this sector is crucial to the UK economy and, therefore, it is critical that we challenge and dispel the tag of the ‘white van man’. It has become a very unfair and prejudicial tag – underestimating the actual skills involved in doing this economically important job successfully. We are delighted to be working closely with Office Depot in this pursuit.”
Ian Hetherington, chief executive, Skills for Logistics