James Liddell

To most millennials, the semantics of ‘logistics’ are riddled with outdated stereotypes of a heavy haulier, or warehouse shelf stackers.

The more desirable elements of the industry – of which there are many – are not projected to young people, causing a lack of exposure and knowledge about logistics. 

Luckily, my own perceptions of logistics are clearer than most of my generationAlthough I have not directly worked in the field, I have been exposed to logistics my entire life, as my father works in the freight forwarding industry. This places me in a unique position to offer the perspective of a young person who is external to the trade, while  still understanding what logistics really is.  

Having a freight forwarder in the family has revealed far more than the technical aspects of logistics. It has illustrated a lifestyle. Yes, the hours can be gruelling and long, with the workload seemingly relentless at times. And although there sometimes appears to be an imbalance between the amount of time spent in the office and at home, the industry does offer good prospects.

Something that has always drawn me to my father’s line of work was watching him travel across the globe. The possibility to experience other cultures and to meet a diverse pool of people through your career is the diamond that shines through the rough, long hours.

And although we get the occasional whinge and whine about the stressful nature of the job, you see a man who is truly passionate about his career, and that passion is infectious.

And there are plenty of opportunities to work in the sector – which is not true of every industry.

Vice president of value-added service for DHL Germany Christiane Beimel said: “Supply chain managers are retiring faster than they can be replaced”; 25 to 33% of supply chain professionals are nearing retirement age.  

So it’s crucial to entice the younger generations into the industry.  The question, is how? 

First and foremost, companies need to educate young people about what logistics really is. To leave the banal label of logistics behind, it is integral to highlight the expansive nature of the fieldwith its eclectic mix of career paths on offer, ranging from supply chain management to warehouse design, from sales to sailings 

Secondly, as younger generations begin to define themselves as citizens of the world, it is important to highlight the importance of logistics in helping develop a cosmopolitan society. Logistics is one of the key enablers of globalisation, internationally linking the supplies and demands of the entire world.  

Logistics facilitates the fusion of cultures through the movement of different products from different nations.  

And logistics is about co-operation and collaborationhelping to keep the world in order, rather than solely about financial competition. Young people will be drawn into the industry, wanting to brand themselves as enablers of multiculturalism.  

And then there is climate change, a key issue for the young today, and logistics can play a big part.

The environment particularly resonates with millennials. With the transport sector accounting for 25% of the total commercial energy consumed worldwide, supply chain managers are integral for instigating fuel-efficient shipping.   

Finally, there is new hope for logistics in the post-Covid world, as nations rely on freight forwarders to transport essential products, such as PPE and other medical suppliesThe consumer typically overlooks how we get our online orders, but residing in these unprecedented times has caused a shift. Young people are now thinking about how their goods arrive, and are becoming more aware of  it.

But companies, you have a job to do. To ensure a steady flow of young applicants into the field, it’s crucial that you educate millennials about what it means to work in logistics, and to ensure that the preconception of the heavy haulier or underpaid warehouse worker can at long last become a remnant of the past 

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  • Jeffrey Blum

    August 10, 2020 at 4:44 pm

    Hi James
    A splendid article, James, well done. I too grew up as the son of a Freight Forwarder who also had the vision to become involved in Heavy Lift Projects, which introduced me to “logistics with extras” !!
    Some years later I worked for 4 years providing multilodal logistics to the UN Peacekeeping Forces in 4 global arenas.
    I agree that ours is indeed a fascinating profession ~ I have never been bored on any day in my (so far) 47 years in transport !
    You are correct ~ how best to convince your generation that our world is exciting ? I would be happy to discuss this with you and help, if possible.
    Jeffrey Blum FICS FCIArb
    0845 644 2864 / 07885 172838

  • KK Than

    August 16, 2020 at 1:37 pm

    James. This is what you wrote.
    “And although there sometimes appears to be an imbalance between the amount of time spent in the office and at home, the industry does offer good prospects.
    Something that has always drawn me to my father’s line of work was watching him travel across the globe.”

    Now think about it. Your father traveling the world probably represents less than 1% of our industry. Being myself in this industry, notably the last 35 years in Asia where work hours are much longer than in the western world I have serious doubts about the first part of your message. With work hours regulated I did not see an imbalance of time spent at home and in the office with any of my friends in Europe.

  • Bill Paul

    August 17, 2020 at 12:06 am

    Very good article, James. I shared it on LinkedIn and you might be interested in the stats:

    15 (positive) comments

    Best wishes for a long and successful Logistics career