Spreading the word of logistics

The logistics sector is facing a recruitment crisis, says Ian Nichol, Head of Logistics for the Think Logistics project at Career Ready. This article looks at what those working in the sector can do to encourage more people to join the workforce.

A recent report from Talent in Logistics, based on interviews with 500 young people and teachers, revealed that 42 per cent of respondents did not know the meaning of the word logistics. Meanwhile, only eight per cent considered the sector to be an attractive career option and 18 per cent said they had been spoken to at school or sixth form about logistics as a career option. In this context, how will the logistics sector recruit the 1.2 million new staff needed by 2022?

Closing the skills gap

The solution is to follow in the footsteps of other sectors like financial services, science and technology where career pathways are proactively promoted to young people in schools and colleges.

Career Ready, a social mobility charity, has been successfully preparing young people for the world of work for over 17 years. Its programme consists of a structured series of apprenticeship tutorials, enterprise activities, workplace visits, mentoring, masterclasses and internships that connect students with volunteers from the world of business, helping them develop the skills, confidence, knowledge and networks needed to make informed career decisions and achieve success regardless of background.

Since 2013, the employer-led Think Logistics project has partnered with Career Ready to recruit volunteers from the logistics sector to deliver a programme focused on promoting logistics careers to young people across England. In 2018/19, over 1,200 young people attended a two-hour interactive Think Logistics workshop delivered by industry professionals. Logistics companies have already provided over 50 paid internships to Career Ready students throughout 2019.

“No one is going to wave a magic wand and make the skills gap go away,” says Steve Granite, Founder of Think Logistics and Chief Executive of Abbey Logistics Group. “It is up to us as an industry to proactively tell young people that there are genuinely exciting and fulfilling opportunities available in our sector.”

The logistics sector itself accounts for eight per cent of the UK workforce and is crucial to ensuring that public sector organisations and private sector businesses can continue to operate. This ranges from ensuring hospitals continue to receive drugs in time, to propping up the manufacturing sector where it operates on a just-in-time delivery schedule.

Indeed, the logistics sector supports the whole of the UK economy, thus making the need to recruit talented people even more of a pressing issue. To expand its reach, Think Logistics needs more volunteers from logistics and supply chain companies who are passionate about the sector to go into schools and colleges with the aim of enthusing young people about the opportunities in logistics.

Representing the sector

Gary Curzon, Materials Manager at Mettler-Toledo Safeline Ltd, became involved with Career Ready two years ago. Having mentored two students at Trafford College, delivered a series of employability skills masterclasses and became the Chair of the employer-led Local Advisory Board at the college, his contribution can be considered extremely valuable. However, he has far more in the pipeline. “At this stage in my career, the opportunity to make a small difference to the quality of future talent is something to be proud of and something that invigorates me,” he said.

One of the key objectives for Think Logistics is to help the sector recruit a more diverse workforce to ensure it is making use best use of all available talent. The logistics sector has always faced difficulties when trying to boost the diversity of its workforce and has found the recruitment of women particularly challenging. This, however, is beginning to change and students such as Emily Clark are great examples of such progress. Emily began her career in logistics at the Career Ready logistics centre based at Stockton Riverside College in Stockton-on-Tees, where she undertook a paid internship with PD Ports.

Upon completion of her internship, Emily was offered a place on a Civil Engineering Degree Apprenticeship programme, sponsored by PD Ports, at Teeside University last September. Emily, whose childhood dream was to become an engineer, faced obstacles common to most women who embark on careers in industries such as logistics and engineering. Commenting, Emily said: “I’d encourage other students to consider what else is out there. Opportunities like apprenticeships are invaluable for gaining real-world experience.”

Think Logistics encourages companies to run activities for students to gain an understanding of the workplace. Getting graduates and apprentices to interact with younger students is particularly effective, as Kristina Clark, a Collaborative Planning Manager at Molson Coors and mentor for a Career Ready student in the East Midlands, highlights: “It’s so important that we make young people aware of the rewarding careers they can pursue in logistics, otherwise we – as a sector – run the risk of losing out on a generation of skilled workers.”

For Kristina, the benefits are many. “My communication skills have grown stronger, especially when it comes to communicating with young people and explaining, in an inspiring way, why logistics is such a great career path to take,” she said. “Through mentoring others, I have developed my own coaching ability and a skillset that will prove invaluable when progressing my own career path and taking on additional responsibilities such as line management.”