Building materials supplier Selco has launched a training programme offering its staff the chance to become lorry drivers to help ease the nationwide shortage.

Selco Builders Warehouse said its new driver academy aims to create dozens of newly-qualified HGV drivers by next May as the UK is facing a mounting supply chain crisis caused by the skills shortage.

The company is itself struggling to fill more than 20 driver vacancies and said the initiative will help address its own recruitment woes and those in the wider haulage sector.

Selco has hiked its hourly pay rate for HGV drivers to £14 from September 1 and £16 for those in London and across the south of England to help attract new recruits.

It comes as the likes of Tesco and Asda have been offering £1,000 starting bonuses for lorry driver recruits to entice applicants.

The lorry driver shortage is adding to post-Brexit disruption and worldwide material supply problems amid the pandemic, which is hitting a raft of sectors – from food and hospitality to housebuilding.

Selco’s owner Grafton recently warned over soaring prices caused by the supply chain troubles, revealing the cost of materials in short supply had jumped by about 7.5% compared with the same period a year ago.

Marc Lucock, human resources director at Selco, said: “No industry or business is immune from the shortage and at Selco we currently have more than 20 vacancies to fill, and that number is rising.

“We wanted to be proactive, not only to fill our vacancies but also play a very small part in helping to address the national shortage.”

It is offering staff from across the business the chance to change career and apply for a Level 2 HGV apprenticeship, which would see them become fully qualified HGV drivers – with a category C licence – by May 2022.

The apprenticeships include lorry loader crane training while Selco is also offering its commercial van drivers the opportunity to upgrade to become HGV qualified.

“This is the opportunity for people working in, for example, our branches who may not feel well suited to a management role to move into a different area of the business and gain the qualifications to set them on the road to an excellent career,” Mr Lucock said.

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