Thursday, February 19, 2015

Logistics and the Supply Chain Remains a Secret Industry Sector says New Report

Skills Shortage Affecting Irish Republic as Well as UK
Shipping News Feature

IRELAND – Whilst UK road haulage interests and industry associations meet with government officials over the ever increasing worry of skill shortages affecting all aspects of the supply chain, Ireland’s Expert Group on Future Skills Needs (EGFSN) has released a report identifying the current state of the freight transport, distribution and logistics industry in Ireland, and setting out its recommendations to the Irish government, on ways to curb its own growing problem.

The aim of the study was to assess the skills and competency requirements for freight transport, distribution and logistics activities in Ireland up to 2020, and to propose recommendations that will ensure the country has the right skill base to meet enterprise needs. The report says it ‘adopts a holistic skills assessment of Ireland’s logistics infrastructure for facilitating international trade and domestic freight distribution'. It assesses needs at all levels of educational attainment, including further education and training, as well as higher education, and the identification of development and career progression opportunities for those at lower skill levels for job openings arising from anticipated expansion and replacement demand.

Most, if not all, reports on the transportation industry’s skill shortage mention one major concern that keeps many jobseekers/graduates away from the industry, the perennial complaint that logistics remains an ‘invisible’ sector, with little public knowledge of how the supply chain operates and opportunities for careers within it, making it more difficult to attract and retain talent. This can be attributed in part to a lack of marketing of careers in the sector and the services it offers, the occasional exception being large companies that have their own strong recognisable brand. Knowledge of careers in the sector is often restricted to awareness of more traditional roles such as HGV drivers. This is despite the fact that the sector offers varied and relatively well paid professional career opportunities.

Estimates in the report suggest that over 48,800 people will be employed in Ireland’s transport industry in 2015, with forecasts anticipating the number of jobs to rise by anywhere between 13,500 and 15,500 by 2020. Job vacancies would arise for two main reasons: the sector is expected to grow (accounting for 60% of job vacancy openings) and the number of retirements/other replacement needs estimated (accounting for 40% of job openings). HGV drivers would comprise approximately 45% of the total potential vacancies.

There is demand within the sector for more graduate level entrants to ensure a provision of managers, planners and associated office workers with adequate skills. The use of sophisticated warehouse management systems is increasing the requirement for skilled staff. In terms of recruitment, the main skills impediment anticipated is for HGV drivers with the required licence. Chairperson of the EGFSN, Una Halligan said:

“Within firms, skills need to be nurtured and developed through improved provision of training and the support of lifelong learning. There is a need for the development of structured career paths especially for lower skilled workers. While at present, employers perceive few recruitment difficulties, except for HGV drivers, this is likely to change due to increasing skills demand arising over the next five years. In order to meet this demand, the poor image of the sector needs to improve.”

EGFSN advises the Irish Government on current and future skills needs within the economy and on other labour market issues that impact on Ireland’s enterprise and employment growth. Whether the government acts upon EGFSN’s many recommendations remains to be seen or would it parallel the UK government’s historic actions, which seems to involve holding numerous meetings with logistics industry representatives without any successful, decisive action forthcoming as yet. Welcoming the launch of the report, the Irish Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation, Damien English T.D., said:

“The open nature of the Irish economy with high levels of trade combined with our geographical peripheral location means that achieving excellence in freight transport, distribution and logistics is vital for our competitiveness. I welcome the report which was a key deliverable under the Action Plan for Jobs, the report highlights the positive outlook for the future of the sector and shows that there is significant employment growth expected. I also welcome that the report identifies the potential for warehousing and storage apprenticeship programmes.”