The year 2020 has certainly been an unusual one so far and we have seen many changes in our personal lives and in the way ‘normal’ things now work in the UK. Who would have thought just a few months ago that warehouse jobs would be considered key roles and Customer Service advisors would be working from home? The recruitment industry has seen some dramatic changes in the job market and here we look at how the current climate could affect those of you in warehouse careers. We also take a look at opportunities if you are thinking about a job change and share with you our top tips for warehouse job seekers.
The effect of COVID-19 and lockdown on warehouse jobs
As the UK went into lockdown in late March many industries came to a standstill. Throughout April and May recruitment activity in some sectors fell steeply. While still falling in June, it was less than at the height of the lockdown period1.
At the same time as the number of jobs reduced, there was also a large increase in the number of people looking for work in both temporary and permanent positions. In June the availability of workers looking for temporary jobs rose at the quickest rate seen since 2009. This was likely due to a combination of increased redundancies resulting from the pandemic and furloughed workers seeking a job change, in fear they may not be able to return to their previous position. This, of course, means there is now greater competition for jobs. Our top tips for warehouse job seekers below can help you be ready as you enter the job market.
Hospitality, catering and high street retail were especially hard hit during the pandemic, but there were certain sectors where jobs did become more plentiful. Healthcare saw a sudden need for more medical and domestic staff and with the surge in online shopping and home delivery of groceries, there was an increased need for Drivers and warehouse staff in the logistics industry. In those sectors that continued to operate there was also a need for temporary staff to cover roles where permanent employees were unable to work due to illness, isolation or shielding.
There is further good news for those in warehouse careers. The KPMG and REC, UK Report on Jobs1 found that although permanent job vacancies still fell for all categories in June, some Blue Collar sectors, including warehouse jobs, had a much lower decline. Even more encouraging is that temporary vacancies, while still very low, did actually see an increase in demand for staff compared with May.
With signs that the job market is stabilising, and as more furloughed staff return to their original roles, it can be hoped that we are now past the worst. However, it may still be a while before we see things fully turn around and the number of available job placements across all employment sectors continue to grow again.
What demand patterns are we seeing for warehouse jobs?
By far the biggest increase in warehouse jobs is in the e-commerce and grocery sectors. During the pandemic, while confined to home, many people turned to online shopping and home delivery of groceries. This resulted in the need for more warehouse space to support these new shopping habits.
There is currently no sign that online shopping will reduce, so the need for warehouse space continues and with that the need for experienced Warehouse Operatives. There is concern in the warehouse industry that there are not enough skilled people in warehouse careers to carry out these roles safely2, so adequate training and equipment needs to be provided. This is no longer only about the safe use of equipment and the correct methods of lifting and carrying, but also the new safety measures associated with social distancing and hygiene.
The past few months have highlighted how automation can help with social distancing and has, perhaps, fast-forwarded the much greater role it will take in the future of work in the warehouse. Already many warehouse jobs work with automation systems, so Warehouse Operatives need to receive or have the relevant training and knowledge to work alongside them. Read our blog Automation of Warehouse jobs: our friend or foe? to learn more about the effect COVID-19 has had on automation in the warehouse.
When assessing the current availability of jobs for people in warehouse careers, most openings are for Warehouse Operatives and Forklift Drivers, but there are also openings available for Warehouse Supervisors and Warehouse Managers. This varies by region in the UK. The KPMG and REC, UK Report on Jobs1 found that the Midlands and South of England had a shortage of skilled staff for some specific warehouse roles, particularly Forklift Drivers, Production Workers and Warehouse Operatives. In Scotland, June actually saw an increased demand for temporary staff in the Blue Collar sector -the only sector to report such findings.
What has been the impact on pay rates for warehouse jobs?
In the August issue of Warehouse & Logistics News the CEO of UKWA, Peter Ward, talks about the need to change the image of warehouse jobs. Following the pandemic, warehouse careers such as Warehouse Operatives, Forklift Drivers, Pickers and Packers are now seen as essential to everyone's day to day life.
The joint UK Report on Jobs1 released in July by KPMG and REC, found that across all job sectors starting pay rates were falling as a result of less demand for staff in a time when redundancies meant more people were looking for work.
Interestingly, according to data taken from a tool that monitors daily and monthly job postings activity across the UK, insights have found that, warehouse jobs have seen a slight increase in advertised salary.
Comparing April to June this year with the pre-COVID-19 period of December 2019 to February 2020, the median advertised salary for Forklift Driver positions has increased by £512 per annum from £19,776 to £20,288. The salary for Warehouse Assembler positions has increased by £384 per annum from £18,784 to £19,168, for Warehouse Supervisors there has been no change but for Assistant Warehouse Managers there has again been a small increase of £128 from £18,528 to £18,656.
Warehouse careers for the future
When it comes to finding warehouse jobs it is important to know what employers want and how your skills and experience can be matched to a particular role. Two key soft skills that employers are looking for are good communication and attention to detail. These are important for all job roles but especially one where you are part of a team and having these skills can help ensure the smooth running of the warehouse. Previous warehousing experience and knowledge, as well as experience of operations are also sought after attributes by warehouse employers.
In what will be a challenging future of work in any industry, it is also important to consider new skills that employers are looking for. Within the warehouse industry, an understanding of the full supply chain is helpful, so with the increase in warehousing for the e-commerce and online grocery sectors, any experience in retail and sales can be beneficial.
Skills for management and supervisory roles are also sought after, so any previous experience from working in this capacity in other industries can put you in a good position for a warehouse career.
Good computer skills will be helpful and with the increase in automation it will be of particular benefit if you have knowledge or experience of working with these types of systems. Problem solving ability is also a valuable skill; if you are able to analyse a situation and find a solution to the problem then you will be an asset to any warehouse team.
Where can you use your skills if you are thinking about a job change?
Warehouse careers are still an option for many people and as we are seeing, warehouse jobs are currently in a stronger position than some other job sectors. However, the future of work is still uncertain for many and now might be the time you want to consider a job change.
If you are already experienced in the logistics sector then it might be a natural move to find alternative roles within the supply chain. If you want to stay within the warehouse then perhaps consider training to become a Forklift Driver. You can learn more about what is involved here.
The increase in online shopping means there are opportunities for driving jobs, a natural progression from the warehouse, especially if you are happy to work alone and enjoy being out on the road. You could be a local Delivery Driver, which you can do with a car driving licence or you might want to consider gaining your LGV licence and becoming a long distance driver of a large goods vehicle (LGV, formerly known as HGV). You can view the variety of driving roles here.
Alternatively you might of course want a complete job change away from warehouse careers. If that is the case then our Career Guides are a good place to start. If you are looking for an exciting new job change then you should definitely read about the 10,000 new UK jobs that are rolling out in locations across the country. This is an amazing opportunity in the engineering industry for anyone looking to change careers. A training programme is provided for anyone who has no previous experience in this sector.
The new world of finding and securing work
Like all industries, at Blue Arrow there have been some changes to how we work as a result of COVID-19. Our blog on how to get a job through Blue Arrow gives you some information on our process, but one of the changes we have made has been moving the registration process online using short video calls to validate documents and get to know our candidates.
As we move forward we will continue to see where jobs and skills are most in demand so that we can connect people with opportunities. Keep reading the insights and information we share and prepare yourself for all future work opportunities by following our top tips.
8 top tips for warehouse job seekers
Warehouse jobs may be more available than jobs in some other sectors, however, as the number of job seekers continues to rise the competition is high. It is extremely important, therefore, to prepare yourself for when a suitable vacancy arises.
- Register with us at Blue Arrow so that you can be matched with available job vacancies. You can find your local branch here.
- Keep checking our Warehouse Jobs page for the latest new jobs available.
- Learn relevant new skills to improve your employability to continue in warehouse jobs. Gov.uk has some good information on career skills and training.
- For warehouse careers you could consider an apprenticeship.
- If you are thinking about a job change, read our Career Guides and look at our other jobs pages to see the most recent job vacancies.
- Update your CV to make it relevant to the industry you are applying for. Add any new experience and skills learnt during the last few months. Our CV Writing Tips and CV Templates will help you get started.
- Be interview ready. Find out how to answer the 10 most common warehouse interview questions here. Keep in mind that interviews might take place over the phone.
- Subscribe to our newsletter to stay up to date with all our latest news.
1 REC, UK. 2020. Report on Jobs: Downturn in recruitment activity eases in June. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.rec.uk.com/our-view/news/press-releases/report-jobs-downturn-recruitment-activity-eases-june. [Accessed July 2020].
2 Warehouse & Logistics News. (2020). ‘UK warehousing industry weathers COVID storm’, p. 17 Warehouse & Logistics News, 1 August [ONLINE] Available at: https://warehousenews.co.uk/digital/aug120/. [Accessed July 2020].