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Attracting young talent to logistics

06 September 2021

We need to engage with, recruit and retain the next generation of innovators, technicians and entrepreneurs in logistics, says Harry Watts.

OUR INDUSTRY sits on the precipice of one of the most exciting periods in our history. There continues to be incredible innovation and technological progress within the logistics sector, and there can be no doubt that if we can harness the power of advancements such as artificial intelligence or self-driving vehicles quickly, then we will transform our industry and ultimately, have a substantial positive impact on the world.

However, the one thing we cannot get away from is that whilst the tools for this technological revolution will be digital and mechanical, the fundamental force that will drive this revolution will be the people behind it. 

However, here we have a big issue… the logistics industry has a fundamental image problem. Recent studies carried out by leading logistics organisations (e.g. NOVUS, HGVTraining.co.uk) have shown unequivocally that typically young people identify logistics as an area that is low-skilled, low-paid and slow-paced.

Despite this perception being fundamentally untrue, it needs to be addressed. We need to become attractive to young people, instil in them a desire to join our industry, be educated and upskilled, become essential contributors, and ultimately, make logistics an industry they do not want to leave.

Organisations across the sector need to step up to the challenge and change the way we are perceived, showcase the dynamic technology and innovation happening daily, and ultimately empower young people to make a difference. Our intentions must be not only to attract young people to our sector but also to educate and retain them.

We need to holistically consider how we present ourselves, particularly the language we use. We must be aware of the negative imagery associated with standard (and sometimes beloved) industry terms we use, such as ‘sheds’ and ‘trucks’. Unfortunately, terms such as these have become synonymous with an outdated view of logistics as a static environment full of brown-coated, middle-aged white men moving boxes about. We need to develop a new vocabulary that adequately describes the dynamism of our industry and dispels the negative stereotypes that abound.

At SEC Storage, we have overhauled our linguistic framework when describing what we do. Instead of “selling racking”, we “provide dynamic warehouse solutions”. Instead of being “frames and beams providers”, we have become “strategic distribution partners”. And instead of working in sheds, we work in “distribution and fulfilment centres”. These are not just new labels but reflect the reality of new processes and ways of working.

These simple changes have been instrumental in attracting and retaining young talent and has changed our workforce unrecognisably for the better. We now have a crop of fantastic, ambitious, and motivated young rising stars passing through our SEC Academy, developing their skills and helping us build our disruptive and technologically advanced approach to warehouse design. Advances that have provided substantial year-on-year growth and won multiple industry awards. 

The challenge for us as an industry is to collectively change the conversation and alter how we present our industry to the next generation. We have all the raw ingredients required to attract and retain talented young people who will see the logistics sector in a new light and bring new skills that can open doors to innovation and progress through technology and digitalisation. Which, if harnessed correctly, will culminate in an overwhelmingly positive impact on the logistics industry and society as a whole.

Harry Watts, managing director, SEC Group

For more information, visit www.sec-storage.co.uk