Ministers will expand a fast-track program to allow up to 5,000 people to be trained as heavy truck drivers to alleviate the supply chain crisis.
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said on Sunday that 2,000 more places would be opened through “skills training camps” to increase the number of truck drivers.
But the free classes lasting up to 16 weeks will not start until next month, meaning they will do nothing to alleviate concerns about Christmas shortages.
Labor said the new drivers trained under the program would be a ‘drop in the ocean’ of what’s required.
About one in six adults in Britain has been unable to purchase essential food items in the past fortnight, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
The figure was almost as high as a quarter for non-essential food items, with the lack of truck drivers partly responsible for the shortages after Brexit cut the EU’s labor supply.
With the courses being backed by £ 17million, the government is committed to ensuring that successful trainees are guaranteed a job interview with a local employer.
But the first fully trained truck drivers will not be “road ready” until February, Downing Street has acknowledged.
Places will be offered to drivers who wish to return to the profession or upgrade their license to transport dangerous goods such as fuel, as well as to newcomers.
Army tanker drivers have also been deployed to help fill gas stations affected by fuel shortages.
While ministers announced last month that 3,000 people could be trained to become truck drivers under the program, the latest announcement brings the total to 5,000.
Mr Zahawi said, “To help more people in the industry, we are expanding our skills internship offering to help 5,000 people acquire the skills they need to be ready for the road, and to help those who are on the road. have previous experience to refresh their skills so they can get on the road again.
A thousand more people are expected to be trained under local programs funded from the government’s education budget.
Shadow Transportation Secretary Jim McMahon said: “It is a drop in the ocean and it is clear that the government is unwilling or unable to grasp the scale of the challenge facing Christmas. The industry has warned that for Christmas food deliveries alone, an additional 15,000 drivers will be needed – not to mention the colossal gap that ministers have not already planned or properly addressed.
“If the Prime Minister does not treat this crisis with the necessary seriousness and does not show a real ambition to face it, the workers will continue to pay the price with the rising costs, the soaring bills of energy and bare shelves this winter. “
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