How to attract the next generation of logistics professionals

By James Liddell

Photo: Shutterstock

To most millennials, the semantics of ‘logistics’ are riddled with outdated stereotypes of a heavy haulier, or warehouse shelf stackers.

The more desirable elements of the industry – of which there are many – are not projected to young people, causing a lack of exposure and knowledge about logistics. 

Luckily, my own perceptions of logistics are clearer than most of my generationAlthough I have not directly worked in the field, I have been exposed to logistics my entire life, as my father works in the freight forwarding industry. This places me in a unique position to offer the perspective of a young person who is external to the trade, while still understanding what logistics really is.  

Having a freight forwarder in the family has revealed far more than the technical aspects of logistics. It has illustrated a lifestyle. Yes, the hours can be gruelling and long, with the workload seemingly relentless at times. And although there sometimes appears to be an imbalance between the amount of time spent in the office and at home, the industry does offer good prospects.

Something that has always drawn me to my father’s line of work was watching him travel across the globe. The possibility to experience other cultures and to meet a diverse pool of people through your career is the diamond that shines through the rough, long hours.

And although we get the occasional whinge and whine about the stressful nature of the job, you see a man who is truly passionate about his career, and that passion is infectious.

And there are plenty of opportunities to work in the sector – which is not true of every industry.

Vice president of value-added service for DHL Germany Christiane Beimel said: “Supply chain managers are retiring faster than they can be replaced”.

Stats show that 25% to 33% of supply chain professionals are nearing retirement age.  

So it’s crucial to entice the younger generations into the industry.  The question, is how? 

First and foremost, companies need to educate young people about what logistics really is. To leave the banal label of logistics behind, it is integral to highlight the expansive nature of the fieldwith its eclectic mix of career paths on offer, ranging from supply chain management to warehouse design, from sales to sailings 

Secondly, as younger generations begin to define themselves as citizens of the world, it is important to highlight the importance of logistics in helping to develop a cosmopolitan society. Logistics is one of the key enablers of globalisation, internationally linking the supplies and demands of the entire world.  

Logistics facilitates the fusion of cultures through the movement of different products from different nations.  

And logistics is about cooperation and collaborationhelping to keep the world in order, rather than solely about financial competition. Young people will be drawn into the industry, wanting to brand themselves as enablers of multiculturalism.  

And then there is climate change, a key issue for the young today, and logistics can play a big part.

The environment particularly resonates with millennials. With the transport sector accounting for 25% of the total commercial energy consumed worldwide, supply chain managers are integral for instigating fuel-efficient shipping.   

Finally, there is new hope for logistics in the post-Covid world, as nations rely on freight forwarders to transport essential products, such as PPE and other medical suppliesThe consumer typically overlooks how we get our online orders, but residing in these unprecedented times has caused a shift. Young people are now thinking about how their goods arrive, and are becoming more aware of  it.

But companies, you have a job to do. To ensure a steady flow of young applicants into the field, it’s crucial that you educate millennials about what it means to work in logistics, and to ensure that the preconception of the heavy haulier or underpaid warehouse worker can at long last become a remnant of the past 

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