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Generation Logistics – attracting future talent into the industry


An interview with Transport Minister Trudy Harrison MP and Logistics UK President Phil Roe

Last week saw the launch of Generation Logistics, a high-profile national campaign to raise the profile and enhance the image of the logistics sector. Led by Logistics UK and the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport in the UK (CILT), the campaign is also backed by the Department for Transport (DfT).

Logistics Magazine caught up with Transport Minister Trudy Harrison MP and Logistics UK President Phil Roe during the campaign launch at Multimodal 2022 to talk about how it aims to help transform perceptions of the logistics industry.

BACKGROUND IN ENERGY AND SUSTAINABILITY

Appointed as Transport Minister in September 2021, Trudy Harrison MP is only nine months into her role. She is no stranger to the issue of energy decarbonisation, however, having worked for investors specialising in renewable energy and sustainable community projects before entering parliament.

“I worked initially in the nuclear industry and then biomass,” she said, “Sustainable communities was the subject I studied at university and I was very much involved in project management in sustainable and predominantly renewable energy, but a lot of nuclear energy as well.”

This background has given her an understanding and appreciation of engineering. The minister hails from a family of engineers, with an electrical engineer daughter, systems engineer father and a husband who has worked in the nuclear industry for 43 years. “These are the kinds of subjects that we talk about over the tea table at home,” she said.

Her main motivation, as a mother to four girls, is to help nurture the next generation. Although her daughters are now young adults, she readily admits to not having a conversation with them when they were in their early teens about a career in logistics.

“I didn’t know then about the many career opportunities, the apprenticeships that there are,” she said, “And I don’t want other mums to be in that situation, because I now know that there is a wealth of opportunities and I also know that [logistics] is increasingly valued by society.”

The minister also launched the government’s much anticipated Future of Freight plan at Multimodal last week. Her ministerial portfolio means she is not tied to any one particular mode of transport, which she believes gives her an overarching ‘helicopter’ perspective of the freight and logistics sector and what it needs to be as efficient, reliable, resilient and environmentally sustainable as it can be.

THE DRIVE TO DIVERSITY

Frequently characterised as being too ‘male, pale and stale’, the logistics sector has often struggled to attract a workforce that reflects the broader UK population. As the country is currently in the grip of a historically tight labour market, how does the minister think Generation Logistics can help shift perceptions of the industry and help it appeal to a wider range of demographics?

“I think the fact that 84% of the sector is male demonstrates that we miss out on the talent that is represented by 51% of society being female,” she said, “but it is more than just gender diversity. It’s enabling a sector that is more representative of society.”

Phil Roe, who after a long career at DHL, was appointed as President of Logistics UK in April this year, agrees but points out that the diversity that already exists in the sector is not immediately apparent.

“There is a lot more diversity currently in the industry than first appears,” he said, “so one of the key areas that we want to bring to the fore is real people talking about real jobs with real passion to show the diversity that does exist. Because we know that is a way of engaging people to see people that they can relate to.”

The material that the campaign team is putting together for Generation Logistics is very much focused on real people to highlight career possibilities that they may not know exist.

“We have to break the stereotype that working in logistics means lorry driving,” he said, “Not that that’s a bad thing by any measure because we want our lorry drivers, but we also want our data scientists, we also want our people working on robotics, we also want our people working in our ports and in our rail industry as well. And we’ve got to allow people to make a much more informed choice and appeal to the whole of the population.”

For this reason, Roe said, the campaign is targeted not at people who already work in logistics, but those who are yet to do so.

THE ROLE OF TECHNOLOGY AND INNOVATION

New technologies and innovation, modal shift and decarbonisation have a growing role to play in the logistics sector of the future. Does Roe think these will lead to more highly skilled and higher paid employment opportunities than existed in the industry of the past?

“There’s always been highly skilled opportunities in logistics, but it’s just not been known,” he said. “I think what these technologies and innovations do is they broaden the roles that are available. They mean that increasingly people from different backgrounds, with different skill sets might make logistics a place to pursue a career. They wouldn’t have done so previously because they wouldn’t have known about it.”

He cites an example of a colleague from his DHL days who had a degree in art history and ended up running one of the parcel giant’s biggest operations.  

“He was an absolutely brilliant individual,” Roe said, “Got a role very, very young as a general manager, because he knew people who knew people and then he took his opportunities.”

He has many more examples of what a fantastic industry logistics is to enhance your career and it is a message that he is determined to get out to the wider public.

ATTRACTING THE NEXT GENERATION INTO LOGISTICS

While the Generation Logistics campaign has a key focus on 16- to 24-year-olds, Minister Harrison also believes that once learning about the opportunities available, those over 24 and already in work may be tempted to take up jobs in freight and logistics, utilising transferable skills or through apprenticeships which you can take at any age, or by training on the job.

“The £7 million that we’re investing in innovation and technology is really going to contribute to the different perceptions in freight and logistics,” she said, “But also when I’ve been out and about meeting with people, working in ports and the sector generally they’re asking for a systems approach and that’s where I think technology can really play a key part.”

POST-PANDEMIC PROFILE OF INDUSTRY

Following Brexit, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the well-publicised shortage of HGV drivers, the logistics sector is currently enjoying a higher than usual public profile. Why is now a good time to launch a national industry image campaign like Generation Logistics?

“The public probably has more understanding of freight and logistics than ever before,” the minister said, “We want to take this opportunity to thank those who have worked in freight and logistics over the past few years, for the way that they’ve innovated and worked hard during our worst times. But I think society now recognises the value of having goods delivered to their door, hospitals fully stocked, shelves fully stocked in supermarkets. So, it is actually an opportune moment to go out to society and talk about the career paths available.”

CREATING OPPORTUNITIES TO LEARN ABOUT LOGISTICS

Using a combination of industry sponsors and matched government money, the Generation Logistics now has a campaign war chest worth some £800,000. With these resources at its disposal, what does the government and industry hope the campaign will achieve in its first 12 months?

“We’ve set out that we want to provide 600 million opportunities for people to learn about logistics and freight and 600,000 visits to the website,” the minister said, “And the reason we want to do that is to change perceptions. And we’re measuring that by increasing awareness by 25% or more. Those are the kinds of targets we’re working on.”

This will be demonstrated by a changed workforce which better reflects the society it is serving.

From an industry perspective, Roe said that the qualities the 24 private businesses and 15 major trade bodies supporting Generation Logistics most want to see are enthusiasm and connectedness.

“We’re here to attract people to the industry,” he said, “That’s why that 600,000 number is so important, because that shows that curiosity is there. We want to see that being translated into people being keen to come into the industry from all backgrounds, and therefore improving the overall diversity within the sector.”

“Ultimately that will achieve a reliable, resilient, environmentally sustainable sector that is valued by society,” the minister concluded.

*https://logistics.org.uk/generation-logistics

Published On: 23/06/2022 16:00:59

 



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