Linking up the Supply Chain
Everything – and we do mean everything – that you can see around you right at this moment has at some point been part of the supply chain. It’s the process that moves things from where they’re made to where they need to be, whether that’s construction materials, food, drink, electronics, your Amazon order … anything you can think of. People working in logistics keep the chain connected.
Types of Apprenticeships
There are many links in the supply chain, with Apprenticeships to match. They include Logistics Operations, Commercial Moving, International Trade and Logistics, Mail Services and Package Distribution, and Warehouse and Storage.
About Transport and Logistics
Without the logistics industry the UK would come to a grinding, unhappy halt. There would be no food on the shelves (and no shelves in the first place), nothing in shops and the crops would be going to ruin with no transport to move them from the fields. Logistics makes use of land, sea and air transport to move things from A to B, with a workforce of skilled operatives involved at every stage.
What can I do?
Because there are so many links in the supply chain, there are many opportunities for a career in logistics. For example, you could train to be the driver of a heavy goods vehicle (HGV) or a courier van, responsible for getting your cargo to the right place at the right time. This is vital work: not only do you need to be a safe, reliable driver; you need to be able to arrive at the precise moment you’re needed. At supermarkets the delivery window for lorries can last a matter of minutes, so it’s skilled work.
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 supply 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 making sure the warehouse team has the right instructions.
Transport and Logistics Skills
The skills you’ll need will vary slightly between roles, with different requirements depending on your specialism. Drivers will need training for larger vehicles, 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 to 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 longer 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. Don’t worry though, that’s the kind of thing an Apprenticeship can help you develop.
Some of the roles available to apprentices include:
- Logistics Operative
- Logistics Operations Team Leader / Supervisor
- Freight Forwarder
- Import/Export Clerk
- Mail Centre Operative
- Distribution Operative
- Delivery Operative
Routes into Transport and Logistics include:
– Vocational qualifications / A Levels
– National Diplomas and Certificates
– Higher National Certificates (HNCs) and Diplomas (HNDs)
– Foundation Degrees (England and Wales only)
– Bachelors Degrees
Higher level qualifications will let you join the supply chain in more senior positions right away. For example, the Level Five Higher Apprenticeship in Express Logistics could land you an operational manager role, while a graduate could be employed by an international company in a similarly advanced role.
Life as a Transport and Logistics Apprentice
Ready to hit the road? For some apprentices, 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. If you’re old enough (and qualified enough), you could also be driving, too.
Alternatively you might be at the start or end point of the supply chain, working in a warehouse to get deliveries ready. Either way you’ll probably be working in shift patterns, with some early morning, night and weekend work involved. As you’ll be an Apprentice you’ll be studying alongside this, so you’ll need to learn to organise your time to keep on top of things – but you’ll be working in a team, so there are plenty of people around to support you.
The same is true if you’re training to actually plan out logistics operations, deal with suppliers and customers, or manage other people. You’ll need to keep on top of your studies, get yourself to work 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….
If you’re the kind of person who loves to see things completed, or who enjoys planning and working through a to-do list, chances are you’ll be well suited to logistics. It’s the kind of career where there’s a definite job to do, and a very real sense of satisfaction when it’s done.
You could work in:
Logistics personnel are everywhere, and work all over the world in places like:
- Warehouses and depots
- Mail sorting centres
- Anywhere a truck can go….
Find apprenticeships and jobs in Transport and Logistics near you at Careermap.co.uk.