Working in logistics: it’s time for an image overhaul

Working in logistics: it’s time for an image overhaul
Whether you’re reading this in your office, on your daily commute, or in the comfort of home – take a look around you. Everything you see made it there thanks to the logistics sector.

According to the FTA, the logistics sector employs a total of 2.35 million people in the UK, either directly or indirectly. That’s a huge number, accounting for nearly 8% of the UK workforce. From drivers and distributers, to supply chain managers and warehouse operatives – it’s the sector that keeps the country moving.

With UK consumer spending on the rise, demand on the logistics sector will continue to sky rocket in the coming years. To seize this opportunity and grow their businesses, employers need to have the best talent on board. Where the logistics sector is concerned, that’s where the challenge lies.

An ageing logistics workforce

Our recent Talent Shortage Survey found that drivers are the second-hardest to fill job in the UK. Part of the reason for this is the fact that the logistics workforce has an ageing population.

The FTA reports that 64% of LGV drivers in the UK are aged over 45. To put this into context, in the wider economy, just 46% of workers are in this same age category. At the same time, there are not enough young people entering the sector. So, inevitably, as older workers exit the workforce, employers have a void to fill. In short, one of the ways to mitigate skills shortages is to inspire more young people into the industry.

Why aren’t enough young people considering a career in logistics? One of the main explanations is perception. Talk to someone about what it’s like to work in the logistics sector, and you’re bound to hear all kinds of stereotypes, half-truths, and fake news. This certainly isn’t helping the sector to appeal to young people.

Take pay as an example. Public perception seems to be that driving is a low-paid career choice. Yet, LGV drivers can expect to earn around £30,000 a year, well above the UK’s average salary of £26,500. There’s also a perception that working in logistics is just about driving. However, there is a long list of roles that are essential to the supply chain – materials planning, production, transport management, purchasing and operational management, to name a few.

Redefining the perception of working in logistics

Before we can address these perceptions, we need to understand where they come from. One source is parents. There’s still a minority which entrench certain ‘old fashioned’ stereotypes, and discourage young people from considering logistics as a career path. Those that don’t discourage young people from pursuing this career path don’t always encourage it either. We need to re-educate this generation on the vast, fulfilling logistics careers that are out there. This will mean they can become industry advocates for the next generation.

Does the industry’s poor perception also sit with the way careers have traditionally been promoted within schools and further education? Yes, undoubtedly. There’s a clear need to improve the image of working in logistics, so it more closely reflects reality. Improving education in this way will help to encourage new people into the industry.

At Manpower, we’re doing our bit to help. We work in partnership with Think Logistics, an industry-led initiative that’s redefining the perception of working in logistics. As part of this partnership, we work with schools to deliver workshops which teach young people about the different career pathways that are available within the sector. We show them that it’s a diverse, fast-paced industry with very fulfilling career opportunities.

My colleague Mick Skerrett – Driver Development Manager at Manpower – is the current Vice Chair of Think Logistics. He has been instrumental in changing perception of the logistics industry. The feedback we’ve received from the young people themselves and their schools has been fantastic. We’re looking forward to doing even more to help in the months and years to come.

We’re proud to be doing our part to improve the image of working in logistics. But we know there’s a lot more to be done. I’d love to learn more about any other initiatives that share a similar aim, and perhaps we can learn from one another – feel free to contact me directly on [email protected] if you’d like to discuss.

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