Are there enough trained logistics workers?

October 10, 2022

The warehousing and logistics industry is currently facing a devastating labor shortage. As DHL explains, from an undersupply of skilled warehouse managers to a scarcity of truck drivers and port workers, the sector is struggling under the weight of an unprecedented number of orders for goods that require global transportation and local storage.

With consumer demand vastly exceeding the labor supply, it begs the question: Is there an adequate number of potential employees who have the required skills and experience to rise to the occasion?

The labor shortage by numbers

The short answer: no.

It's estimated that there are no fewer than six available jobs for every one appropriately qualified supply chain manager. According to Datex, as of 2021, there were half a million open positions in the American manufacturing industry and a shortage of over 60,000 truck drivers. Per ThinkVertical, a report conducted by the Summer 2021 Labour Market Outlook found that more than 35% of employers in the sector reported challenges finding and hiring qualified candidates.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' most recent results were particularly shocking: As of July 2022, the rate of new job openings in the transportation and warehousing sector had risen by over 7.5%, marking an increase of more than 1% since March.

What's causing the shortage?

Employee turnover rates are increasing at an astronomical rate for many reasons. Some cite concerns about their health and safety: For example, logistics and warehousing employees are considered essential workers and were expected to continue working on-site during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in spite of the dangers it presented to their wellbeing.

Others have referenced extensive working hours and the consequent lack of a work-life balance as reasons for leaving the sector. As Moss Adams explains, many skilled employees in the Baby Boomer generation are growing older and retiring. Members of younger generations are taking up entry-level positions but haven't had time  to develop the necessary skills.

Organization executives want employees with a wider range of capabilities (specifically relating to technology, leadership and communication) than their predecessors, making it even more difficult to fill job openings as very few people possess all the skills employers desire.

Possible solutions to the crisis

A number of colleges and other educational institutions are offering technical training courses in logistics and supply chain management in a bid to produce skilled industry workers. From an organizational standpoint, employers must ensure that their remuneration and benefits packages are attractive to the adequately skilled candidates.

Human resources departments at these companies should implement training programs to upskill the workers they do have (and to increase their pay in proportion to their additional responsibilities). To accomplish this, consider reducing hiring requirements within reason, offer new and current employees more flexibility and recruit independent contractors and temporary staff to ease the burden of the open position's responsibilities on the rest of your team.