March 2009 | Commentary | Risks and Rewards

Help Wanted: Seeking Qualified Logistics Professionals

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Q: As a logistics provider, I find that hiring qualified staff has grown increasingly complicated with the rise of demands such as regulatory compliance, security initiatives, and constantly changing industry standards. Why is this? What can the supply chain and logistics sector do to attract a younger generation of professionals to this field?

A: One might think that filling a vacancy in today's market would be relatively simple. The latest economic indicators suggest that the U.S. unemployment rate stands at 7.5 percent and is likely to increase to 10 percent in the near future. As you stated, however, the transportation industry appears to be increasingly concerned about having sufficient trained personnel to fill its positions.

Researchers estimate that by 2012, the logistics sector will create 170,000 new jobs. Assuming that long-term economic conditions improve, the baby boom generation will be leaving the workforce in large numbers during the next 10 to 15 years. So it is ironic that certain industries are having difficulty finding a properly qualified workforce. Attracting young professionals who are trained in international trade and transport can be a challenge.

ATTRACTING THE MTV GENERATION

A younger workforce is less likely to seek positions in this sector for a number of reasons. Transportation can be viewed as tedious and boring. It does not have the same glamour as investment banking or high-tech industries. It is not perceived as an industry commanding high salaries or promising significant career potential. In effect, the industry suffers from an image problem.

Because of changing economics, however, modernization and technology have taken hold of the logistics sector. The industrial complex that existed in this country just 50 years ago has been largely exported overseas. As a result, entire regions whose livelihood once depended on manufacturing have reinvented themselves.

To ensure they receive a steady flow of properly qualified personnel, many segments of the industry have embarked on outreach programs to expose younger students to careers in logistics.

On the college level, ports are partnering with universities to develop lesson plans in math, economics, and world trade. Degree and non-degree programs in fields such as global logistics are being developed at a number of colleges and universities, and some companies offer internships as part of interactive work-study programs.

STOCK IN TRADE ASSOCIATIONS

Programs sponsored by trade associations provide young people training in logistics operations. For example, the International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations (FIATA) holds an annual competition in which students develop suggestions for improving some aspect of the sector. The winner of the competition is named FIATA's Young Freight Forwarder of the Year.

Today, unemployed professionals have a unique opportunity to apply their existing talents in new areas. The transportation industry's initiatives are helping to shape careers in marketing, engineering, finance, IT, and management. Efforts such as these help ensure that you will see a steady flow of qualified personnel.

Have a liability question or concern? I will try to help. Please send your questions to me via e-mail at dan.negron@thomasmiller.com.

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