We already know that Northern Ireland’s haulage and logistics sector supports our regional and global supply chains and the sectors are vital for the NI economy. Brexit and Covid have highlighted the importance of supply-chains and their associated workers over the past two years. As we are witnessing with the Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) driver shortage, labour issues in this sector affect the stability of the entire economy.
As we emerge from the pandemic the NI economy is growing and businesses are seeking more skilled and semi-skilled employees than ever before. The labour pool has not kept up with this growing demand, and this is supported by The Department for Economy’s December 2021 Labour Market figures report, which states “The number of employees receiving pay through HMRC PAYE was 773,400, the highest on record.”
Many sectors of the economy face recruitment challenges and some must also grapple with a demographic challenge as the workforce ages. For logistics businesses, this is exacerbated by the fragmented nature of the sector and the lack of awareness of the range of careers available within logistics. For a number of years, some parts of the sector have struggled to attract new recruits and retain those working in it, relying on agency staff and foreign labour to manage periods of high stress. The reasons are diverse and include perceived lack of career development opportunities and lack of diversity.
To improve resilience of the supply chain, we must improve the labour market for the sector. The freight industry is made up of workers from many different sub sectors. From the crew of container ships and the port workers who load and offload containers, pilots flying cargo in commercial flights and the cargo handlers on the ground that send goods on their way, to the HGV drivers, van drivers and train drivers who get goods to their final destination. There are many more essential jobs in between and the workforce and skills requirements are diverse.
It is important that these businesses not only consider challenges of the current workforce, but that they look ahead to the next generation of logistics workers, ensuring commercial longevity and the ongoing integrity of the supply chain. There are currently trends of an ageing workforce and a strong male bias within the logistics sector, not only on the frontline with drivers but across all roles and levels. Businesses must continue to work on this challenge as well as to attract more participation from a wider range of diverse groups.
How can you do this? Through the Transport and Supply Chain Management Foundation Degree at South West College. The programme validated by The Open University and supported by CILT provides applicants with a core knowledge and the higher technical skills in Transport and focuses on the practical application of knowledge and skills in both the academic and Work Based Learning components of the programme allowing students to ‘earn while they learn’.
A universal approach to the course coupled with opportunities to work with students from other Higher Education programmes will enable participants to gain an appreciation of the importance of a team approach in the modern and vibrant Transport sector. This multi-disciplinary approach is critical to ensure the successful and timely delivery of Transport and Supply Chain Management projects and the next generation of professionals.
Upon successful completion of the Foundation Degree in Transport & Supply Chain Management programme, graduates may consider entering into employment within the Transport and Supply Chain sector or continuing to study by applying for a place on a BSc programme in a relevant discipline including the level 6 BSc (Hons) Top-Up Degree in Transport and Supply Chain Management at South West College.
Even before COVID-19 rocked global supply chains, the transportation and logistics industry was undergoing massive change. Factor in the profound impact of the pandemic, and the changes to operational supply chain flows related to Brexit our industry has gotten even more complex. The sectors knowledgeable professionals have been essential to preventing our supply chain breakdowns while navigating the way forward. Because transportation and logistics keeps the world moving (literally), employees with knowledge and skills in this area are not only highly sought-after but well compensated for their expertise. Degrees, in particular, can position graduates for executive-level jobs as well as academic ones.
For students looking for fascinating and challenging careers, there may be no more opportune time than now to pursue studies in transportation and logistics. The importance of education and training that Northern Ireland’s logistics and transport practitioners receive cannot be exaggerated, as it impacts directly on the efficient management of the supply chain in which they are an essential element. Within their own industry, logistics and transport practitioners are now required to take a wider strategic view rather than the previously acceptable narrow operational view. This increased role and status requires substantially different and enhanced skills, education and training. Making the foundation degree at South West College the perfect opportunity to upskill your staff, recruitment opportunities and employment pathways for the next generation.
For more information contact South West College: https://swc.ac.uk/subject-area/transport-supply-chain-management