🕒 Article read time: 2 minutes
In profile: Bethany Windsor, Operations Manager, Career Ready, Think Logistics and NOVUS
Recruitment has never been a more pressing issue for the logistics sector, with more than six out of ten respondents to Logistics UK’s recent Logistics Performance Tracker survey expecting severe difficulties hiring for certain roles.
Right at the frontline in this battle for talent is Bethany Windsor, who is currently on secondment from the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) to the social mobility charity Career Ready. She manages both Career Ready’s Think Logistics programme, which runs workshops in schools and further education colleges, and CILT’s NOVUS programme which works with seven UK leading universities.
UNCONVENTIONAL CAREER PATH
With a background in primary education and supply chain software business development, Windsor’s route into logistics has been somewhat unconventional, but her enthusiasm for her adopted industry is both infectious and wholehearted.
“I fell into logistics like so many of us did,” she said, “and now I’m absolutely passionate about promoting it as a career of choice, so people actively make the decision to come into the sector and get all the benefits that I’ve had afforded to me.”
INSPIRING YOUNG TALENT
Windsor is currently exploring what motivates young people to choose certain industry sectors as part of her dissertation for her master’s degree in supply chain leadership and management at Aston University.
“There’s so many factors that play into young people’s choice,” she said, “Parental occupations, careers advice in schools, the media – they’re almost bombarded with options and opportunities.”
One of the things she thinks that logistics lacks is a high-profile business figure who could act as a role model for younger people.
“We don’t have a Richard Branson or a Karen Brady for logistics,” she said, “Without that media presence, we can struggle, we can be hidden sector.”
One of the few silver linings of the COVID-19 pandemic, she believes, is the light it has shone upon the work of the logistics sector: “Coronavirus has thrown what we do into sharp relief,” she said, “people have relied on logistics keeping Great Britain fed, entertained, medicated all the way through the pandemic so that key worker moniker has really allowed us to capitalise on that in front of young people.”
While the heightened media coverage is welcome, Windsor said that familial connections still act as the strongest driver of recruitment into the sector.
“Most of the young people who join our degree courses have some sort of family worker in the sector,” she said, “and they’ve understood the size of the opportunity for them that way.”
CONNECTING YOUNG PEOPLE WITH EMPLOYERS
Since it was founded by leading business figures to boost social mobility almost two decades ago, Career Ready has connected more than 150,000 young people with employers across the UK.
The charity’s Think Logistics programme runs workshops at schools and further education colleges that aim to raise awareness of the industry and encourage young people to consider early career opportunities within it.
“The workshops have three aims,” Windsor said, “We start off talking about the roles they are most familiar with, likely ‘trucks and sheds’, where we undoubtedly need more workers, but explain that the sector is made up of many more roles. We hope that anyone sitting there thinking, I want to be an accountant or to work in HR will realise there’s a place for them in logistics, too!”
The workshops look at creating pathways for direct entry, apprenticeships, degree apprenticeships and graduate routes. “We talk to them about those four routes in and then of course the final, and arguably most important aim, is that we encourage them to choose logistics as a preferred profession, regardless of their route of entry,” Windsor said.
Through some true or false format quizzes and interactivity, the workshops also educate the students about the sheer size and diversity of the sector. “90% of goods travel by ship – that’s mind blowing when you’re that age,” Windsor said.
The workshops are often delivered by young, recent entrants to the logistics industry, who can act as a role model and inspiration to the students, before signposting them to areas where they can find out more.
“We hope within that hour to pique their interest,” Windsor said.
PROMOTING THE POSITIVES OF THE INDUSTRY
Windsor thinks the industry can be attractive to young people if it is promoted in the right way.
“I don’t think the problem is with the attractiveness of the sector, I think the problem is with getting that message out there.”
Logistics has to compete for attention with other sectors and professions that have historically benefited from a lot of government funding. Campaigns like the Year of Engineering in 2018, and promotions for the teaching and healthcare professions have paid dividends, but logistics is one of the sectors that has not yet benefited from a big government push.
“I think we’re quite shy as a profession about shouting about what we do. We keep Great Britain moving but we do it really quietly and really efficiently, rather than really flashily and you won’t see a headline on the BBC screaming ‘Supermarkets full again’ – it just wouldn’t work.”
The alternative is for the sector to promote itself via initiatives like Think Logistics and the NOVUS graduate programme.
“But by and large, I think we have a great message for young people,” Windsor said, “Logistics is fast-paced, well-paid, technologically very interesting – and that area’s growing – we just aren’t great at pushing that message out and blowing our own trumpet.”
SPONSORING THE SECTOR
Given the current dearth of government support for promoting logistics as a profession of choice, Think Logistics relies on sponsors from the industry itself, of which Logistics UK is one.
“Logistics UK’s sponsorship allows us the resource to do things like marketing, so getting that word out, creating the brilliant suite of videos that we’ve got, creating lesson plans, and more, it all becomes a virtuous circle,” Windsor said, “We are not government funded in any way, shape or form, so without the support of our corporate partners we simply wouldn’t be able to keep doing what we’re doing.”
Windsor would be delighted to hear from logistics companies that could loan out its young people to deliver workshops.
“Young people really, really resonate with students, so we would welcome Logistics UK members sending us their young people for an hour,” she said.
There is also a wider programme within Career Ready that provides young people for work experience and internships.
“It’s finding out what works for members,” Windsor said, “What their need is in terms of young talent, and how we can best support that, whether that’s through Think Logistics, through NOVUS, through putting them in touch with other organisations who are doing great things like Road to Logistics and Veterans into Logistics, there’s a lot going on and we welcome that conversation with members.”
OUR CHALLENGE, THEIR OPPORTUNITY
Although the logistics sector is currently experiencing a severe skills shortage, Think Logistics chooses to present this as less of a challenge and more as an opportunity.
“Our sector skills shortage represents a really good opportunity for young people to step in and step up at pace,” Windsor said. “Nearly 50% of managers and directors in storage warehousing are due to retire by 2027, so that’s a tangible opportunity for them to step into middle management roles as other people progress – and step up very quickly.”
Windsor believes that as digital natives, many young people are excited by technological innovations like driverless trucks and the increased use of automation in warehouses.
“We talk about that as being an exciting opportunity. We don’t know what those jobs are going to look like in five years’ time, so young people can come in and help us shape the profession. We try very much to position it as an opportunity. Our challenge is their opportunity.”
Published On: 14/07/2021 16:00:00