skills shortage

Looking for new talent? Succession planning in international logistics

Making it hip again: are you doing enough to develop talent in logistics and global trade? Why we need to do more for the future of supply chain management.

At AEB we have been supporting development initiatives in the area of international supply chain management for quite a while. To get young people involved, past activities have included, for example, sponsoring the Fresh Connection supply chain game or hosting Beer Distribution Game competitions.

Ongoing awareness campaigns include the provision of expert white papers – for example on export controls – or annual global trade management research studies in collaboration with the University DHBW in Germany.

We also engage in the wider community through supporting events such as the Chartered Institute of Logistics & Transport (UK) Career Day in January 2016.

It’s about education but also and importantly, it’s about raising awareness and promoting the industry to ensure its continued development – specifically on personnel level.

Why are we in logistics and how did we get here in the first place?

Supply chain management and global trade form part of everything today – across all markets, businesses, and industry sectors. In our fast-paced, technology-driven, and globalized world consumers expect just about anything from anywhere delivered promptly to their door. And it’s international logistics that makes it happen – along with the required paperwork, customs declarations, licenses, visibility, and of course, return options.

But even though our world would be at a stand-still without international logistics, it seems newcomers do not perceive this area as a very sexy career choice. If you ask your peers around you, you will often find that experts in global trade and supply chain management have ended up in those roles by happy accident – not because they initially sought it out.

Not a dream job? Strange, because it includes everything.

So it seems no-one dreams of a logistics career. I think that’s kind of sad, really. And even worse, many still associate supply chain management with exclusively, say, trucking services. Or inventory management and forklift operators.

These are very important areas and professions in logistics, of course. But as important are business analysts, forecasters, project managers, export specialists, compliance officers, capacity managers, system programmers, customs brokers, and supply chain strategists – to name just a few.

Professions in supply chain management are highly diverse and the public image of international logistics is perhaps misunderstood. Obviously, attracting young professionals to start a successful career in global supply chain management is a big mission.

And we should all see it as our responsibility to support it. Believe me, we urgently need to stock up on talent, or otherwise, I’m afraid, we’ll run out…

Mission: promoting global logistics. Why take the trouble you say?

You might challenge my concern about lack of young talent in the industry. There is a lot of data to prove that I am not the only one with concerns about personnel development in global trade and logistics. Here are some examples:

  • Our October 2015 industry poll on “Greatest risk management challenges in supply chains – now and in the future” features responses from over 50 supply chain professionals in the UK across various industry sectors. 68% of respondents cited “Training (establishing, maintaining, and operating effective programs)” as a major challenge today. “Succession planning for export controls” – a very specific knowledge area of global trade – was listed by 55% as a key challenge in the future of global trade management.
  • The “Global Trade Management Agenda 2016” shares the feedback of over 300 global trade and logistics experts on this year’s supply chain and global trade priorities. The topic “personnel management” – including building expert knowledge and establishing career succession plans – has moved up in the annual rankings to number four this year. 68.2% of respondents cited this area as a major challenge in 2016.
  • Across the UK, one person in every 12 people works in logistics and transport. Yet many jobs within this sector are considered hard to fill and only 9% of the industry reflect the age group 25 and under. This was reported by Beverley Bell, President of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (UK) on January 11, 2015 in Reading Town Hall at the institute’s forum for young professionals. This, she proposed, is down to public image.

Promote it! Are you ready to do your part? I am.

It’s not like educational programs to prepare for the different fields of global supply chain management do not exist. There are plenty – in different forms and in pretty much all markets. There is the Novus Trust, for example, which offers a four year BSc degree course for successful careers in logistics and includes guaranteed jobs for graduates from one of the course sponsors. Or, as reported by my colleagues Richard, the Executive Masters on International Trade Compliance that was launched by the University of Liverpool last year.

But perceptions outside of the industry really need to change to draw a steady stream of young people in. Young professionals need to understand what global supply chain management involves and start considering careers in this area as an attractive choice – not as a fallback option.

I’m very passionate about this and from my side, I decided that actions speak louder than words: In addition to my engagement in ongoing AEB initiatives, I’ve started focusing some of my attention on university collaboration by holding lectures on logistics, supply chain, and global trade topics. I really want to do my part and I hope sharing my fascination for the business as well as my knowledge and experience with aspiring supply chain management experts will help to lure them in ;).

I held my first lecture at the University of Warwick on January 28, 2016 on the role of software in transport and freight management – relevance, trends, solutions, case-studies. Very inspiring – well, for me – I hope some of the students felt the same ;). It was quite interesting to see the audience in the room, the majority of whom was international. I have further lectures planned on global trade management in June and I hope I will be able to engage with other universities in the future, too.

How are you and the company you work for attracting new people into logistics and global trade management? Do you have the same concerns about succession planning in your own organization? I am very interested in your view and look forward to your comments on LinkedIn.