January 2015 | Commentary | Carriers Corner

How to Close the Supply Chain Talent Gap

Tags: Education & Careers, Supply Chain Management, Global Economy, Logistics

John Lloyd is Director of Cargo, Virgin Atlantic, 800-828-6822

A career in logistics is a career working at the heart of world trade. Most of us could not get through a single day of our lives without relying on some aspect of the supply chain.

Products move between manufacturers and retailers, or growers and consumers, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. The air cargo sector alone transports goods worth in excess of $6.4 trillion annually, approximately 35 percent of world trade by value. This movement is as vital to world trade as it is to consumers. The fact is, without a timely, efficient, and seamless supply chain, the world would quickly grind to a halt.

As such a vital industry, all facets of the supply chain sector must continually recruit and develop the next generation of industry managers and leaders. That means overcoming one of the supply chain's greatest weaknesses: promoting itself.

The Next Generation

An array of industry sectors tries to attract the best talent graduating from universities. If the logistics sector is to compete, it needs to ensure that it communicates the importance of the supply chain and its career opportunities in a way that grabs the attention of younger generations.

Traditionally, a high percentage of new recruits follow in the footsteps of other family members. This is still an important employment route, but it isn't sufficient on its own. Logistics must compete shoulder-to-shoulder with other sectors such as technology, energy, and finance, which young people typically consider more attractive.

Making Supply Chain Careers Cool

We need to make the next generation aware of the positive impact the supply chain has on their lives, and we need to communicate it in a way that makes sense to them. We have to show them why logistics is so vital to major brands in sectors such as telecommunications, technology, and fashion, and they need to get excited about the supply chain. Every employer has a responsibility to generate this excitement.

Virgin Atlantic, for example, promotes careers in the freight and logistics sectors through its continued sponsorship of the British International Freight Association's Young Freight Forwarder of the Year award. And Inbound Logistics partners with the American Society of Transportation and Logistics to offer a scholarship that helps worthy young students continue their transport-related studies each year. These types of programs are real, positive action that helps to raise awareness about our industry.

But attracting new talent is only step one. Step two involves making sure any new talent stays in the industry and develops a successful, long-term career. If more companies take a lead in shouting about what we do as an industry, and how vital this role is to world trade, it helps to ensure we'll never face another talent gap.

Many companies are building momentum toward this end, and it is already producing positive results. Increasingly, young people are becoming better informed about the supply chain, and see the industry as a serious and exciting career option that offers the chance for fast progression and international job opportunities.