December 2, 2022

Mind the Skills Gap! Lack of Trained Workers Causing Customs Headache for UK Businesses

UK Business

  • With Britain taking control of its border for the first time in almost half a century there is overwhelming demand for customs expertise – 21% of UK businesses have hired additional staff to deal with the new rules
  • Demand for customs experts continues to outstrip supply – with businesses now looking for other options; including tech-based solutions that can provide the scale necessary to keep UK organisations stocked with the product and materials needed

Press release – London, UK – 07.01: Experts from Digital Trader Services have warned of the challenges ahead for Britain’s borders following the new, complex EU-UK customs rules that took effect at midnight January 1st

The changes mean that Britain’s businesses must now declare imports of all EU goods; a rule that is predicted to increase custom declarations by a factor of five – a worrying rise from 55 million to 270 million.

With such a sudden influx of declarations, there is growing concern about how Britain’s customs expertise will cope. In fact, DTS consortium partner the Institute of Export & International Trade reported its technical helpline saw a 379% increase in enquiries, while attendance of its trade related webinars has seen an 80% increase.

Just under two-thirds (64%) of businesses surveyed said that they had undertaken additional training to adjust to the new post-Brexit trade rules and processes, while nearly three-quarters (74%) of businesses have made Brexit related changes to their import and export arrangements.

Many businesses have also had to hire additional staff to deal with the new trade rules and processes, with nearly half (47%) saying they had sought support from a customs consultant, or a freight forwarded. A further 21% have hired additional staff to deal with the new rules.

DTS reported that although organisations were able to grow their customs teams many have struggled to hire the right people – and cost is often a barrier as specialist recruitment agencies demand high fees for skilled workers. Many businesses are also reporting a difficulty retaining skilled staff due to the high demand for them in an incredibly saturated market.

This all signals the increasing worry among businesses about their preparedness for the new rules; and nearly half of UK businesses have already admitted to a lack of knowledge around the new customs requirements for all EU trade.

Nick McCullough, Managing Director of MANFREIGHT Limited, a leading logistics, supply chain & transport business, commented on how his business is being impacted: “The skills shortage in Logistics is quite a challenge at the moment, in particular, the recruiting and upskilling of Customs Agents. This is a highly skilled role with multiple procedures to follow and many variables to consider. For example – the types of products, country of destination and methods of transportation.

“When we tried to recruit for these roles, we really struggled as there is simply not the experience in the market to meet the current demand and the salaries for such roles are currently highly inflated. The current systems only allow a small amount of automation, and the accuracy of data input needs to be 100%. Otherwise, we can face significant delays and/or fines in the movement of goods.”

To alleviate the customs burden currently facing the UK, businesses must look to alternative solutions. And technology provides the means to automate processes that were once handled by now scarce customs agents.

Using automated technology to navigate the lengthy processes associated with the latest declaration procedures will help to avoid the long delays which have been seen UK borders, especially as clearance can already take up to two days. 

Shanker Singham, CEO of Competere and Consortium Partner of Digital Trader Services, said:

“We haven’t had full autonomy of our borders for almost half a century so there are bound to be teething problems as the nation settles into new procedures. But that doesn’t mean that we must fall behind. 

“While true that there is a huge gap between the skills we have and the expertise we need to thrive – both when it comes to personnel at the border and regarding businesses that conduct trade – this does offer opportunity. 

“Current processes bring a laborious labyrinth of paperwork – which can result in heavy fines for businesses when completed incorrectly – but now the UK has left the EU, we have a chance to establish better approaches to this. By moving to digital first platforms, the UK can use automated technology to reduce overall customs complexities – cutting admin time by as much to 75% – presenting businesses with ample time to focus on key business priorities.”

Providing a digital solution to the issue, DTS is an online self-service portal through which declarations can be submitted quickly and easily. The solution will simplify the trader declaration process by reducing the number of fields required – whether for a business doing a one-off declaration or providing declarations on an ongoing basis. Smart technology will run error checks before automating the submission process by passing declarations straight to HMRC.

Cutting administrative work for businesses, technology also allows companies to improve their custom agents understanding of a complex market as they have access to vital frontline advice and educational support, helping organisations’ in-house customs experts navigate the new regulations.

Frank Dunsmuir, Industry Lead Customs & International Trade at Digital Trader Services, added:

Technology has the power to significantly reduce the reliance on skilled workers which businesses ultimately don’t have access to at the moment – enabling them to automatically and seamlessly complete lengthy, confusing procedures in-house.

“While providing a safety net for businesses, this technology also enables businesses to upskill their workforce as educational support is given to in-house customs agents navigating new systems. This is a vital string to any businesses bow as many are seeing operations suffer as they are unable to hire and retain in-demand, skilled workers. After what has been a turbulent time for the UK supply chain, I cannot stress enough how vital it is for UK businesses to implement the infrastructure needed to see Britain to flourish as an independent trading nation.”

Modern problem, modern solution

For logistics service providers, DTS helps to address some of the numerous issues that are holding up the import of EU goods – including information arriving through multiple channels and in multiple formats; the time need to manually complete numerous compliance documents; missing or incorrect paperwork; and accessing full work up of shipping goods information from customers and partners.

Alongside the digital process, users of DTS will have access to expert advice and support, providing a personalised guidance through the declarations process. Access to frontline support advisors and customs professionals will be available during business hours, with frontline support agents, customs professionals, and highly qualified experts to answer traders’ questions when they need it. As part of the consortium, users can draw on the expertise of the IOE&IT to provide essential education and handle more complex custom queries.

This article was originally published in Bdaily News on 07 January 2022. It can be accessed here: https://bdaily.co.uk/profile/fujitsu-fujitsu-3

See also  Digital, Resident, Sustainable-- Why This is a Make-Or-Break Year for Customer Products Companies