Ageing forklift workforce a problem

News Story
- 18 May 2006 ( #260 ) - ALTON, United Kingdom
3 min read
The FLTA brochure.
The FLTA brochure.
The Fork Lift Truck Association (FLTA) has released a dedicated website and an attractive brochure as part of a collaboration with a UK college to make forklift engineering appealing to career-opting teenagers.

FLTA chief David Ellison said the ageing UK forklift engineering workforce was a serious problem for the industry.

"I urge all employers to count how many of their engineers are in their 40s and 50s and take steps today to ensure there are enough trainees coming through to fill that gap."

In March, the FLTA said it was working with the City of Bristol College to introduce forklift engineering apprenticeship courses by September ( News #253).

The program is managed on FLTA's behalf by the college, which runs similar schemes for Porsche, British Telecom and Royal Mail. Through a three-year course, apprentices earn a wage as they assist engineers and attend four two-week blocks of college training annually. The apprentices take on full duties at the end of the course.

TIE (Northern) Ltd's Tony Wallis.
TIE (Northern) Ltd's Tony Wallis.
Tony Wallis, managing director of Toyota Industrial Equipment's (TIE) only UK regional distributor, TIE (Northern) Ltd, said he was encouraged by the FLTA initiative.

"The average age of our team and other forklift businesses appears to be in the 35-to-45-year age group. This indicates that, with low apprentice intakes over recent years and maturing engineers, the problem will only increase."

Wallis said the shortage of engineers created "substantial costs" for businesses as companies competed to recruit from a dwindling pool of talent. However TIE (Northern) Ltd was doing its part to combat the problem.

"We use facilities at Hinckley which will be affiliated to the Bristol scheme. Over the last three years, we have actively promoted apprenticeships and young person schemes with eight of our team now on various programs.

"We introduced a lump-sum payment scheme for apprentice engineers that matures when they are 23. This is substantial enough to retain them and encourage loyalty after they have completed their training," he said.

Wallis said the biggest challenge was ensuring young people could enter the industry and identify long-term career opportunities.

The FLTA is aware of that and is presenting forklift engineering as an exciting, rewarding career.

A full-colour, snazzy brochure, targeted at 16-to-19 year olds, compares forklift and automotive engineering.

"Once trained as a forklift engineer, you will be an expert in electrical and hydraulic systems, diesel and gas powered engines and much more. Like today's automotive industry, it's no longer spanners and oily rags either. Forklift engineers regularly use laptop or palmtop computers to diagnose problems or fine-tune forklift truck performance.

"[But,] unlike a car, most forklift servicing is done on-site, which means engineers typically spend much of their day on the road taking a mobile workshop to the customer."

Ellison said the FLTA would assist companies seeking apprentices.

"Our research shows home-grown recruits tend to give many more years of service than expensive, ready-trained staff poached from another employer," he said.

The City of Bristol College will oversee administration of the program, including recruitment, funding, assessments, learning support and pastoral care. The apprentices' workplace learning is monitored by the college's national network of field-based assessors, supported by residential training at various locations.

To download a brochure or application form for the program, go to
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