2011 has been an extremely positive year for BITA. Although economic conditions clearly remain very challenging, the forklift sector is holding its own. According to the most recent BITA UK sales statistics – compiled exclusively by and for BITA members – the market is headed in the right direction. Since a low of 17,500 unit orders seen in December 2009, there has been consistent growth. By September 2011 the UK market had reached 25,500 units, more than half way back to pre-recessionary levels (a 55% recovery).
And, if we look ahead, there is good confidence. According to the Freight Transport Association’s Logistics Report 2011, there is encouraging sentiment that conditions across the sector will continue to improve.
But there are challenges to overcome. First and foremost, like all sophisticated tools used every day, forklifts need regular maintenance to keep them working safely and efficiently. In 2011 Consolidated Fork Truck Services, a joint company with the FLTA, has experienced a continued increase of Thorough Examinations. However, the age profile of the industry’s engineering workforce has crept up in recent years, making it urgent to attract new talent.
In response to that trend, the industry’s trade associations – BITA and the FLTA – announced a wide range of apprenticeship options for students and their employers during 2011. In May, the FLTA unveiled its scheme operated in conjunction with remit training and North Warwickshire & Hinckley College. November saw the official launch of the BITA Academy, the result of a strategic partnership with City of Bristol College.
The problem, of course, is awareness. In the FTA Logistics Industry Survey 2010/2011, more than 83 per cent of respondents said that the public had either ‘no understanding’ or only ‘slight understanding’ of the role of logistics in the economy. If the general public isn’t aware of logistics, let alone the importance of forklift trucks, what hope is there that school leavers will be encouraged to consider a career in the field?
So the mission is simple, but not easy. The industry needs to realise now’s the time to start securing its future by taking advantage of the training options and significant long term investment that BITA and the FLTA have put in place, in addition to recently announced Government funding. We need to make potential students aware that by choosing a lift truck apprenticeship, they are commencing not merely a training course but a promising career. And let’s keep optimistic that as bright new students start to come through the system in 2012 we’ll also see some brighter weather on the economic front.
James Clark, Secretary General
Tel: 01344 623800