The industry has to do more to attract young talent into the supply chain and logistics sector, according to Andy Kaye, chief executive of Bis Henderson Group and chairman of NOVUS.
Speaking at the eDelivery Expo, Kaye said that the image of the industry as simply ‘trucks and sheds’ was wrong and that the sector had to do more to promote the opportunities available to young people.
“This industry is devoid of young talent. Given the growth we now have in ecommerce and home delivery and the whole fulfilment around that it is vital but it’s also extremely tech-driven and the skills and kinds of people we need are far more advanced than they may have been 15 years ago,” he said.
He quoted DHL figures that showed that 25-33% of the supply chain workforce is approaching retirement age.
However, he said that currently for every six jobs in the sector there is only one applicant on average. “That’s an absolute shocking statistic,” he said. Businesses have to understand the needs of young people he said. “They are quite sceptical about the corporate nature of some large organisations. They are particularly keen on the culture of your business. What is the business going to do to help them develop as people and not just professionally? What they are going to be doing in terms of charity,” he said.
Kaye said the NOVUS initiative, a not for profit service where transport and logistics companies support young people through university, was helping to promote the benefits of the industry but there still need to be more to be done to widen the appeal and attract more youngsters to choose it as a career.
25 companies – including retailers such as ASOS, Sainsbury’s and Morissons, as well as FMCG brands and 3PLs such as DHL, now support the Novus initiative. Such companies offer mentors to students, work placements, paid year-long industrial placements in the third year and a guaranteed job for students that meet the right criteria at the end of their course.
Courses are now running at three universities in Huddersfield, Birmingham and Derby and have been developed in partnership with NOVUS with the aim of creating work-ready students.
Around 150 students have gone through the scheme since it was established in 2013 and there are around 100 students currently studying but Kaye said the opportunity was so much greater. “The universities could accommodate around 450 students a year but we are attracting 50-60. The issue is we cannot attract people to even consider it [as a career],” he said.
He said NOVUS was working with a number of partners and government to try to create an industry think tank to understand how to better attract youngsters to the industry. “We are working with government to create an industry body to work out how we have a strategy for conveying the positive messages of our industry to young talent. We are saying to young people if you are interested in a degree in business then talk to us because we need individuals who are business intuitive who could come and work in a supply chain role.
He said the courses had proved their value by halving the time to value for new workers. “Anyone who has recruited a graduate in the past – it can be 12-18 months time to value.” He said that he was getting reports from those involved that by 6-9 months students were already adding value to the business.
He said the familiarity with companies involved in the scheme also helped to improve retention and success rates.
“The issue is an image issue. When they come out of university and do geography or business they think logistics is trucks and sheds – they don’t see it as being particularly sexy. What we know is the whole supply chain sector is so much more advanced than that and requires a huge amount of talent. It’s getting that message over to young people.,” he said.
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