I like the way you move…
Behind every delivery, piece of mail or journey by public transport is the transport and logistics sector, which takes care of physically moving things and passengers from place to place using planes, trains and automobiles (and ships). It’s one giant network, and people working in this sector keep it all connected.
About transport and logistics
We all benefit from the industry every day, whether we realise it or not. Everything in our homes arrived via the logistics network, and the same goes for our shops and businesses. Without it? No food, no clothes, no nothing. Similarly, the roads and railways would soon come to halt without drivers, conductors and signallers, so there’s a demand for skilled people to keep things moving.
What can I do?
There are many opportunities for a career in the sector. For example, you could drive a heavy goods vehicle (HGV), van or train and be responsible for getting your passengers and cargo to the right place at the right time. It’s not just trains that need to run on schedule: at supermarkets, the delivery window for lorries can last a matter of minutes, so drivers have a lot of responsibility.
Alternatively, you might be based in a warehouse or storage facility and be responsible for picking the items to go onto a delivery vehicle, loading them up – perhaps using forklifts or other specialist equipment – and keeping accurate records.
All of these operations require careful planning and overseeing, so there are many supervisory and management roles all the way along the chain. Some involve working with the delivery teams, while others are focused on the end customer, with roles as diverse as scheduling the deliveries for an entire fleet of lorries to managing a train station.
Transport and Logistics skills
The skills you’ll need will vary slightly between roles, with different requirements depending on your specialism. Drivers will need specialist training, for example, which requires good motor skills, concentration and the patience to cover long distances, often at antisocial times.
Some aspects of logistics work can be very physical: those lorries don’t unload themselves, after all, so you could be doing a lot of lifting and carrying, learning how to plan ahead and use your muscles efficiently and without injury. Some of this is tough, demanding work so you’ll need to be fit and strong, often with a good sense of humour to get you through the long shifts.
You might also need some highly specialised skills depending on the business you work for. Transporting chemicals, fuel or other hazardous materials is obviously risky, so the people involved need to know the properties of the material they’re moving and how to do it safely.
Elsewhere in the chain, roles that involve planning, scheduling or creating timetables will demand ICT, literacy and numeracy skills, as well as a good head for organisation and the ability to solve problems. In fact, for any role in transport and logistics, knowing when – and how – to think outside the box will be a handy skill.
Some of the roles available include:
- Logistics operative
- Freight forwarder
- Import/export clerk
- Mail centre operative
- Distribution operative
- Delivery operative
There are plenty of different ways to get the skills you need to for a career that goes places…
Work-based & work-related qualifications
Relevant NVQ and BTEC programmes include:
- Transporting Freight by Road
- Logistics Operations
- Driving Goods Vehicles
Don’t forget: BTECs etc. can also pave the way for a degree.
Apprenticeships are available at a few different levels:
- Level Two (Intermediate) – equivalent to GCSEs / Standard Grades
- Level Three (Advanced) – equivalent to A Levels / Highers
- Level Four / Five (Higher) – equivalent to Foundation Degree / Advanced Highers
- Large Goods Vehicle (LGV) Driver
- Transport Planning Technician
- Supply Chain Operator
- Aviation Ground Specialist
A Levels and Bachelors Degrees
Useful A Levels might include:
Already know that a degree is the way you want to break into the sector? Head to UCAS and find out what A Levels (or Scottish Highers/IB modules) you’ll need for the course that interests you.
Industry-specific degree programmes include Management, Transport and Logistics; Transport and Business Management; and Maritime Transport and Logistics. However, the transport network needs skilled people from all kinds of backgrounds so you might find that ICT degrees or STEM subjects also rev employers’ engines.
Life in Transport and Logistics
Ready to hit the road? For some people, that’s where the journey starts. You might be working with drivers out on deliveries, helping to load and unload, fill in the paperwork, keep on top of orders and of course find your way to the next delivery. Or you might be behind the wheel yourself.
Alternatively, you might be in a warehouse getting deliveries ready, working on a train, or even crewing a ship that’s lugging containers overseas. Either way, you’ll probably be working in shift patterns, with some early morning, night and weekend work involved. Pack sandwiches (and seasickness tablets).
At more senior levels you might be planning out logistics operations, dealing with suppliers and passengers, or managing other people. You’ll need to keep on top of your workload, arrive on time and build a good relationship with colleagues – but then all of those things mean being good at logistics anyway, so you should have no trouble…
Transport and logistics is really all about making connections and paying attention to detail. So if you’re good at organising things, have a mind that enjoys solving problems and working with other people to get things done – basically, if you love it when a plan comes together – then you’ll probably get on well working in this sector. And you’ll know that you’re playing your part in making the world go round.
You could work in…
- Warehouses and depots
- Mail sorting centres
- The actual middle of the ocean
Find Apprenticeships and jobs in transport and logistics near you at Careermap.
At a glance: paths into the industry
- Vocational qualifications, eg BTEC, HNC/HND
- A Levels, IB or Scottish Highers
- Apprenticeships & Degree Apprenticeships
- Bachelors Degrees
1. A report from the Department for Transport says that we’re making twice as many journeys now as we did in 1970 – so our travel networks need upgrading, and that means jobs.
2. The sector needs 55,000 new workers by 2020 to meet the demands on the network.
3. Around 8% of the entire UK workforce are employed in the logistics sector, according to the Freight Transport Association.