In one form or another, logistics is something people will always need. It is a huge and varied business worth almost £75 billion to the UK economy. The first thing most will advise you to do before starting your career is think which area you would like to specialise in.
There is a big demand for younger employees due to an ageing workforce – at the same time, according to the UK Commission for Employment and Skills it is one of the least likely to have a formal process of identifying young, talented employees.
While it is true you should always have some idea of the direction of your career trajectory, there is no real set rule as to how you should enter the profession. But some routes are better than most. The industry can be split into five sections:
- Land transport
- Air transport
- Water transport
- Postal and courier
The sector comprises mostly of small to medium sized enterprises – but each company should be treated and viewed differently. Only around one per cent of companies have a workforce of more than 250 and almost 40 per cent are run and owned by one person.
Those figures should not put off those interested in a career in logistics, figures from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills show the sector employs 1.45 million people – around 5 per cent of everyone employed in the UK.
Starting your path
While only 16 per cent of the logistics workforce is educated to degree level getting a degree is definitely and advantage. While you can enter without a formal qualification, the businesses more likely to take employees straight out of university are those with 100 or more employees.
You should check which area you would like to work in and what qualifications are expected of you. Across the board, employers are generally looking for people with good customer service skills, good teamwork and the ability to plan and deal with frequent deadlines. Management and teamwork are also applicable skills throughout logistics – in anything from a being part of a same day delivery service to managing a busy warehouse.
As more than 80 per cent of firms have a staff of less than 25 people, many organisations do not recruit through traditional means. Jobs are acquired and people are employed through word of mouth and the generation of contacts. The idea that logistics is a difficult career to get into is a common misconception.
It is the larger firms that have well-established graduate schemes and most of these will be advertised through the business’ website. It is important to make yourself as employable as possible. As with any vocation, work experience will act as proof of your skills and show you have a good understanding of real working environments. Approximately 37 per cent of students are actively seeking employment by the time they approach the end of their time at university – make sure you are one of them.
If you are heading into a management training scheme you will most probably need at least a 2:1 degree. There are benefits of having a postgraduate qualification but a lot of businesses will allow you to take a break to achieve this. There are certain places they will be needed – most obviously, if you are looking to become a pilot, you will need a Transport Pilot Licence.
In terms of degree subject a logistics qualification will obviously help – but other areas, such as business, will also be relevant. Most people enter the profession via a management training scheme – this is often the case in transport and supply. It is after this that you will be able to specify more accurately which part of the job you are most interested in.
While beforehand it is a good idea to know what area of logistics you are most interested in, you should remain flexible during your training process and decide on the specifics once you have finished. This will help you become more employable. Being such a huge operation, it is important to be as well-versed as possible in every aspect of the job.
Once you are on the career ladder, each successive rung is reached through hard work, so prepare yourself.
Where can I get work experience?
As mentioned, if not essential, work experience is very important and candidate with it are in high demand. The bigger companies – the ones most likely to employ you out of university – tend to offer formal positions and internships.
Small to medium sized businesses will not offer positions as official as this but there is not harm in approaching one and asking for work experience opportunities. It does not have to be for a solid block of time, you can request maybe one day a week to begin with. Again, word of mouth and getting your name and face known can be very important with an SME. Impress them early on and that will be more likely to have you back in a permanent, fully-paid role.
Sometimes, your qualification will have to be recognised by an official organisation. These are a selection of the bodies offering recognised professional qualifications in logistics.
British International Freight Association (BIFA) – This is the international freight services industry an sometimes offers training in air cargo security, customs procedures and freight forwarding.
Institute of Transport Administration (IoTA) – Provides educational programmes to its members specialising in the transport industry.
Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation (CIHT) – This body awards a professional qualification with the Transport Planning Society, specialising in importing, exporting and international trade.
The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (UK) (CILT) – Offers a range of tailored courses to every sector within the industry;