There is a UK wide skills shortage across many sectors, not just in logistics, says Sally Gilson, Head of Skills at the Freight Transport Association (FTA). We are competing for the same talent as the digital, banking and construction sectors, amongst others, all of which tend to be more popular with young people.
I started my own career within the logistics sector by accident. Since 2015, FTA membership has been concerned about the lack of new talent entering our sector, hence the FTA has given me the opportunity to help people discover logistics.
Once you work in logistics, it’s hard to imagine leaving. I am a passionate believer that logistics can provide an exciting and dynamic career, but people are not aware of the opportunities because we are modest about our accomplishments.
Want a delivery next day even though you’ve only just made the purchase online at 11:59pm? We can do it! Make everything for Christmas arrive on time? No problem! These are the areas of logistics which the general public are aware of, but they likely don’t realise that without a truck, the NHS wouldn’t function, that schools wouldn’t open, that we wouldn’t have clean water and cash machines would be empty.
Supply chains are incredibly complex and involve a multitude of people, processes and job roles to ensure they run smoothly. However, unless you are Brexit obsessed and have been listening to the many issues regarding the continuation of these movements after the UK has left the EU then you probably wouldn’t be aware.
Keeping visibility of logistics
There are many issues within our sector that can’t be overlooked. For example, a lack of funding for suitable training, unappealing working hours, poor facilities while you’re out on the road and a public that seem to have a negative image of what we do.
We need to change the narrative and start promoting what we do. We can do this by engaging with children at school via schemes like Think Logistics. Think Logistics is a part of Career Ready, a charity working with schools to provide careers advice. It is reliant on volunteers involved in the sector going to schools to present about logistics, their businesses and how diverse the careers are.
Employers can provide workshops, mentor students and run internships. There are many options involving as little or as much money and time as you choose to commit. For the volunteers this is completely free of charge, but Think Logistics offers guidance to help them through the process. So many businesses dabble with social media.
However, very few manage to use it as a tool for tangible business growth. For those that do understand how to make the most of the reach that these platforms present, there are substantial rewards. This also applies to logistics as a sector, which needs to make better use of social media.
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube offer excellent platforms to promote business successes and case studies, which can help change the negative image that has been established in the public mind. Whether it be due to poor air quality, congestion or safety issues, the sector as a whole has a PR problem that needs to be tackled if it is to attract the right talent to address the workforce problem.
We need to own our messaging. The supply chain process has become so complex that the public cannot be blamed for a lack of understanding about what logistics involves. It is up to us, the sector, to explain how it works and its importance to the wider economy. Examples of successful strategies include day in the life video clips posted on social media to promote careers, tracking journeys of clothing from Asia to a store in Stourbridge and explanations of how the sector deals with unexpected delays and what this means for the industry and wider economy.
The FTA’s Labour Shortages Conference will be taking place on 29 October in Birmingham, where we will be discussing how we can engage with our local communities, invest in training, run recruitment campaigns and make better use of social media. Our sector is full of passionate people who love logistics, but we need to learn to be less modest and take every opportunity to promote the benefits.