Berry Recruitment, one of the biggest temporary worker suppliers in the country with branches serving the West Midlands, Shropshire and Staffordshire, says the situation is worsening – warning people to get their festive orders in early to avoid disappointment.
It estimates that demand for delivery drivers is running at 30 per cent above supply and that figure could well increase in the last quarter of the year.
A combination of a huge increase in online ordering and fewer European workers has created a perfect storm. Recent figures have shown the internet-based retail sector growing, with online sales nearly 50 per cent higher than in February.
There is also a shortage of other blue-collar workers for jobs such as packing, food production, order picking in supermarkets, production line staff and industrial operatives.
Many logistics companies are struggling to find qualified drivers to fill their recruitment needs. Amazon is recruiting 7,000 new workers at its warehouses and other sites across the UK. It is also taking on 20,000 seasonal staff nationally to cope with the festive rush including 800 Christmas jobs at its giant site in Rugeley, Staffordshire, where it will also take on permanent staff.
Lee Gamble, managing director of Berry Recruitment, which has a branches in Stafford, Cannock, Wolverhampton and Birmingham, said: “The situation is the same across the country. The lockdown has led to far more people ordering online. Many who had never used the internet for shopping are now converts, and more businesses are selling online.
“This has created a huge extra demand for all classes of driver, from HGV to local delivery drivers.
“What has exacerbated the situation is the lack of European workers. When lockdown looked likely many of them returned home.
“Often they live in small homes here to minimise costs allowing them to send more money to their families. Obviously they didn’t want to be locked down in these properties.
“Neither have they returned because of the Covid situation, which is clearly not over, and the uncertainty over Brexit.
“We did expect to see retail and hospitality workers who have lost their jobs and those on furlough looking for extra work to help pick up the slack. But that hasn’t happened as yet. We don’t know why these people are not coming forward – possibly some have decided to wait for the new year before they start looking for work.” .
Mr Gamble warned there was a real possibility of people not getting their Christmas presents delivered on time because of driver shortages.
He said: “The reality is that if people don’t do their internet shopping early for Christmas they may get caught out The positives are that there are a lot of jobs out there, albeit possibly not the ones people ideally want. But anyne
“The shortage is such that I am advising our clients to hang on to their temporary workers even if there is not enough work for them, because when they do need them there might not be any.
“There is a shortage across all blue-collar roles and anyone looking for work should be able to find it.”
Berry Recruitment is part of Berry Recruitment Group, which includes Wild Recruitment and Wild Berry Associates. It operates in the private and public sectors and employs close to 200 people.