Unlocking the labor shortage: Attracting and retaining forklift operators through free upskilling

Learn how we can improve retention while addressing today's skills gap

6 minutes

March 21, 2023 Adecco

A young female is sitting at the wheel of a forklift truck in a warehouse.

In July of 2021 alone, the warehouse and transportation industry had a record-breaking 490,000 available jobs as many left the sector for better working conditions, higher wages, and careers with the possibility of advancement. The industry has yet to recover, with many companies reportedly still struggling to attract forklift operators and other talent.

The key to addressing this shortage lies in upskilling and training the staff you already have, providing them with the skills necessary to take on a new career as a forklift operator.

While offering OSHA-compliant training and certification may seem daunting for any company, the Adecco Group US Foundation (Foundation) offers a comprehensive Forklift Upskilling Program that provides free forklift certification to Adecco associates and candidates at our customers’ sites. Learn more below about how the current labor shortage is affecting the warehousing industry and how Adecco can help.

Big companies are offering more

The warehousing and transportation industry has long been dominated by retail giants like Amazon and Walmart. This labor shortage has only increased the gap between small businesses and major retailers as many forklift operators flock to larger corporations that can offer higher wages and better benefits.

In October 2022, Amazon announced it will raise its company minimum wage to $19 an hour, a full $4 above the federal minimum wage. Target and Walmart now offer free college tuition and textbooks to their warehouse workers.

As a result, qualified forklift operators are following the higher wages and benefits offered by these bigger organizations, leaving smaller businesses in droves.

Workers are leaving warehouse jobs

It’s no secret that warehousing jobs can be hard on the body and mind. Standing for 10 hours straight per shift has left many workers ready to retire or find positions with better conditions.

During the Great Retirement, a period during the pandemic in which many Baby Boomers retired early, many skilled warehouse workers left the workforce – and they haven’t been replaced by younger workers. 64% of supply chain experts noted that generational differences in employment preferences have led to a shortage of available workers.

In a recent survey, both Millennial and Gen Z workers cited a good work/life balance as a top reason for choosing their current employer, making benefits and flexible working schedules a major attraction. Because there are still 1.9 job openings per available worker, many are leaving their jobs in warehousing, or not even applying for these jobs in the first place.

Forklift operators must meet OSHA standards

The question of how to get forklift certified is another roadblock for those wanting to get started in the industry. Operators must pass strict OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) requirements, including taking formal instruction (lectures and classes), practical learning (demonstrations by those certified along with exercises for trainees), and recertification every three years.

Additionally, hours spent learning need to be logged and specific training modules need to be taught, making in-house training a full-time job. However, external training can be costly and harder to find as many companies are now turning to robotics to fill labor shortages.

Luckily, in partnership with the Foundation, Adecco partners with customers to offer a free forklift certification program for all Adecco associates and candidates, making it easier for your workforce to become OSHA-certified forklift operators.

How our free forklift certification program can help

By employing our free upskilling program, your business can utilize the workers you already have, saving you time and money. Workers upskilled from previous packer positions saw a $2-$3 increase in hourly wages after becoming certified forklift operators through our program.

In addition to retention, upskilling current associates also opens entry-level positions to be backfilled – turning your workforce into a pipeline for skilled positions.

In 2022 alone, more than 130 associates and candidates earned their forklift certification through our partnership with the Foundation.

Our program is OSHA certified: All of those enrolled in the program receive 8 hours of training (4 lecture hours and 4 hands-on learning hours) that cover all OSHA requirements for both sit-down forklifts and stand-up reach truck equipment.

Liability claims have dropped by nearly 75% in companies that have utilized our program, making these businesses safer and more compliant with current occupational safety standards.

Additionally, the Adecco Group US Foundation has developed a “Train-the -Trainer” program to make forklift certification more accessible within your organization. Through a two-day training session, workers are not only trained on specific topics and equipment but are given the skills and capabilities to pass the knowledge on to others. It's a great way to scale training delivery, and as your team learns and grows with each other, a sense of support and well-being will also enhance team dynamics.

To learn more about our free forklift certification program contact us today or check out the Adecco Group US Foundation for more pathways of upskilling and reskilling talent.