Talent is Everywhere – Opportunity is Not

Just imagine you are a young person aged 17 from a low-income family.

You missed up to 6 months of schooling as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and you had worked really hard in Year 11 for your GCSEs but you never had the opportunity to sit them.

Because of family circumstances you couldn’t always access the online learning opportunities provided by your school thus your confidence has been undermined as you have missed out on a lot of your studies compared to many of your peers.

You had planned to get some work experience during the summer but that opportunity was not available because of the pandemic.

You entered Year 12 in September and prior to this you were clear about your future – do A levels and either go to university or secure an apprenticeship.

Now you feel very worried and uncertain about your future…

Young people, particularly those from deprived backgrounds, have had their earnings and job prospects hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic, adding to fears for the long-term impact on their futures.

A recent BBC Panorama programme found young people aged 16-25 were more than twice as likely as older workers to have lost their job, while six in 10 saw their earnings fall.

A quarter of pupils – some 2.5 million children – had no schooling or tutoring during lockdown, a survey by the London School of Economics has found.

The study’s authors warn it could lead to poorer pupils suffering ’’permanent educational scarring’’ when it comes to key academic milestones such as exams and securing a university place.

In addition there has been a significant reduction in the number of apprenticeships and graduate programmes available.

All of this is likely to have a detrimental impact on young people’s mental health as well as their social mobility.

So what can we do as a sector to support the post Covid-19 generation?

PD Ports, based in Middlesbrough, is leading the UK port sector to urge greater action to back young people – asking what more can businesses do and what price will we pay for not investing in the next generation?

PD Ports is leading a Tees Valley business campaign to support young people impacted on by the pandemic and it is launching its biggest recruitment drive ever in 2020 to employ 50 new apprentices.

One challenge that the company identifies is the need to overcome “hidden sectors” and the acute image crisis that faces the maritime and logistics sector in particular.

The sector’s image problem is long-standing and tends to define us as “just trucks and sheds.”

This was highlighted in the Talent in Logistics 2019 report: Changing Perceptions: Attracting Young Talent Into Logistics.

It surveyed nearly 500 young people and teachers and found that:

  • 42% of respondents didn’t understand the word logistics – 17% just associated it with transport
  • Only 8% considered the sector to be an attractive career option
  • Only 18% of respondents said they have been spoken to at school or 6th form about logistics as a career option

The RHA’s National Lorry Week 2020 campaign has been running for several weeks and will culminate with a series of school-related activities November 16-22.

The campaign has run a schools competition and has been showcasing the huge variety of careers on offer in logistics and encouraging young people and those who may be considering a new challenge to think about joining the next generation of drivers, managers and technicians.

I believe that the Covid-19 pandemic provides an opportunity for the sector as it has started to change the image of logistics and transport. These are now seen as essential services that continue to keep Britain moving during one of the most challenging periods in our history. Employees have quite rightly been designated as key workers.

Thus we need to work together and capitalise on this change of image and reframe the narrative with young people that they will be joining a sector that is essential to UK Plc, that is using cutting-edge technology and that provides a wide range of rewarding career pathways.

We need to couple this with the results of the Logistics UK Industry survey 2020 where respondents said the top two priorities for the industry should be to “attract young people” and to “promote the industry.”

As we know the industry is facing severe talent shortages and these must be addressed in a post Covid-19 and post-Brexit world. We urgently need young people from Level 2 to graduate level.

A CILT and Statista report said that logistics companies are expecting skills shortages to increase over the next 5 years.

Nick Ghia, General Manager UK at C.H. Robinson said in a recent CILT Focus article: “We need to get logistics into the mindsets of young people earlier. In line with the digital era of logistics, we should be looking at the gamification of logistics to introduce schoolchildren to the concept of logistics in a fun way, where they also learn analytical and problem-solving skills.”

So how do we marry supporting the post Covid-19 generation with a renewed campaign to recruit more work and apprenticeship ready young people into logistics and transport?

For the last 7 years the Think Logistics project has successfully partnered with the social mobility charity, Career Ready, to raise young people’s awareness of the logistics sector and to promote the great careers on offer to young people in the sector.

Career Ready believes that every young person, regardless of background, deserves the opportunity to enjoy a rewarding and successful future. The charity works with over 400 schools and colleges across the UK to connect young people with employers, raising their aspirations and enabling them to develop their “Skills for Career Success”.  But still the futures of far too many young people are determined by background, not potential.

As a result of the Think Logistics and Career Ready partnership over 6,000 young people have been impacted on via Think Logistics workshops, employability skills masterclasses, one-to-one mentoring, workplace visits, work placements and paid internships.

Its only by proactively engaging with young people in school and college that the logistics sector can successfully recruit young talent to meet its growing skills needs.

So I am issuing a  “call to arms” to everyone who works in logistics and supply chain to come together to support the post Covid-19 generation to ensure their futures are not blighted as a result of lost opportunities and at the same time to engage with and enthuse these young people about the great career pathways on offer in logistics and transport and help to address our growing skill shortages.

If you want to join the campaign then please contact me at ian.nichol@careerready.org.uk or on 07872989158 because talent is everywhere – opportunity is not!