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Skills to pay the bills

12 December 2012

In an age where competition for good jobs is tighter than ever, extra curricular training can provide an edge, says the Chartered Institute of Logistics & Transport Freight logistics, and the transport sector as a who

In an age where competition for good jobs is tighter than ever, extra curricular training can provide an edge, says the Chartered Institute of Logistics & Transport

Freight logistics, and the transport sector as a whole, is a neglected enabler in industry, and indeed twenty-first century society.We take for granted our personal ability to travel by road, rail, sea or air, and we expect goods and services to be delivered to a convenient location where we live, work or shop.

But the supply, operation and delivery of those services represents a complex and efficient undertaking by a versatile and innovative collection of companies and workers.

In the UK some 2.3 million people are employed in freight and logistics, either as direct operators supplying a specialist service, or within the transport and logistics department of a company distributing its own goods or services. That constitutes around one in eight of all UK workers.

Not surprisingly, the range of jobs and opportunities stretches across a large number of operational disciplines and every level of job from a junior in the warehouse to the boardroom of a multinational.

The importance of the professional logistics manager - experienced, trained and qualified - cannot be over emphasised.

In today's ultra competitive economy the distribution of goods and services represents a key element in both the service a company can offer its customers and to the ultimate profitability of that service - or perhaps loss. And the bigger the company turnover, then the more vital is the efficiency of the logistics operation and its impact on cost effectiveness.

Although, like most jobs, employers are looking for candidates who are literate and numerate, the logistics sector also seeks those who can be regarded as reliable and responsible, and with a 'cando' attitude to problem solving and satisfying customer needs.

The industry inevitably encounters daily challenges in carrying out its work - challenges which might spring from changed customer needs or demands, difficulties with road conditions or bad weather, frustrations resulting from delayed production or amended requirements. The logistics industry, and crucially its managers, needs to be able to respond quickly and with innovation - transport is a continuous process not a nine to five job. Good communications skills, team working and a ready recognition and acceptance of the varied and fast moving changes that can occur are important. And, of course, as well as involvement in a crucial and valued element of daily life, the professional 'logistician' has the benefit of expertise in transferable skills, likely to be in demand on a global basis. After all, everything has to be delivered all around the world.

Entry to the industry can be at many levels from school leaver, to graduate, to job changer; people may get into the sector as an apprenticeship or a driver; or perhaps after obtaining work experience in another sector and identifying the value and excitement of a logistics career.

Those most likely to succeed are those willing to commit not only to a dedicated and conscientious attitude to their job, but also to extra curricular training, leading to professional qualifications and an inevitable edge over their peers.

Apprenticeship schemes are increasingly popular with both employers and employees, and offer the ability to blend both onthe- job real life working experience and training with external education and training. This is a popular route into logistics management.

The freight logistics industry sector skills council, Skills for Logistics, offers an logistics apprenticeship scheme which exposes candidates to a wide range of disciplines across the logistics scene, and then allows them to select that which they consider most suitable for their interests and aptitudes.

Larger employers operate graduate or professional development schemes designed to fast track personnel into management positions, and comprehensive training programmes and careers advice is available from the sectors professional body, the CILT.

Qualifications are formatted in modules allowing candidates to take a whole qualification or one or two elements as part of a Continuing Professional Development (CPD) programme offered by the Institute. European accreditation is also available.

Courses vary from introductory level to Masters together with specialist training programmes relating to the Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC), essential for companies which need to hold an Operator's Licence; the management of dangerous goods; warehouse operations; and many others.