Logistics, a career that keeps moving forwards

For those seeking a career after leaving the armed forces, many will be unaware of a sector which is at the heart of the UK’s economy, and which offers great career progression and variety to those leaving the services with a varied skill set.

By creating awareness, the FTA hope to encourage as many individuals as possible to consider a role in Logistics to keep Britain trading.  

For many, logistics is an invisible industry, but it is at the heart of everyone’s daily lives, whether considering how foodstuffs make it to stores, materials are transported to factories, or deliveries arrive at our homes. And it is a diverse sector that, when considering a career move, will allow anyone to continuously develop themselves for the better. 

Logistics offers employees the opportunity to progress swiftly to management positions (if that is what you require), to be your own boss, to travel to different locations both in the UK and overseas, and to undertake a wide range of roles in timeframes that suit your lifestyle. Whatever your interest, logistics is the lifeblood of the UK economy, an industry that is continuously growing, allowing employees to switch and choose different routes, whilst providing continual training and opportunity for personal development. 

The logistics industry created 66,000 jobs in the first six months of 2018 and currently employs more than 2.5 million people nationwide. It is one of UK PLC’s success stories, contributing £121 billion a year to the nation’s gross value added. Efficient logistics is vital to keep Britain trading, directly having an impact on more than seven million people employed in the making, selling and moving of goods. With Brexit, new technology and other disruptive forces driving change in the way goods move across borders and through the supply chain, logistics has never been more important to UK plc. Including those who are looking for a career change into the sector. 

The latest independent industry report into skills shortages in the logistics sector showed that there is currently a shortage of 52,000 HGV drivers across the country – adding this number to the workforce would allow logistics businesses to be fully operational and continue to keep up with consumer and business demands. In previous years, freedom to recruit from across the EU has helped to keep our lorries and vans on the road. But with growing uncertainty surrounding the parameters of a future immigration system after Brexit, the logistics sector is concerned that there will not be enough drivers available to transport the goods and raw materials the UK is reliant upon after the country’s departure from the EU. The loss of workers from the EU will put further pressure on careers including HGV and van drivers, fork lift operators transport managers and warehouse controllers, with EU workers representing more than 12% of the UK’s logistics workforce. 

With the expected loss of almost a quarter of a million European logistics workers post-Brexit, the shortage could reach catastrophic levels. From HGV drivers to warehouse staff, the UK economy simply cannot operate without the logistics workforce – businesses would come grinding to a halt and Britain would cease trading. Logistics businesses are reliant on new workers to keep goods and services moving. With this in mind, there is an ever-growing opportunity for skilled workers to switch careers to take up a meaningful career in logistics.  

Ryan Hutchinson, one of the FTA’s own area engineers, formerly worked in the RAF: we asked him how his life has changed after making a career change to a logistics job:

“Whilst I was at the RAF, I was a mechanical transport technician – basically an HGV technician – but after a few years the role changed into a general mechanical technician. For the 14 years of my life I spent in the RAF, I would cover anything from vehicles and ground equipment to generator and hydraulics rigs. The RAF went through a huge transition in 2012 and I found it more challenging for my home land personal life, particularly after my son was born in 2014. After that, it was increasingly difficult to spend time away from the family.” 

After Mr Hutchinson left the RAF, he joined FTA as an area engineer in the north. As part of his new role, he now works on area contracts and is responsible for liaising with members, organising testing, checks, end of lease inspections and many more. Each visit and communication involves figuring out what the member organisation or company needs and how he can rectify any issues. And as he stated, his previous training in the military has given him the ideal skillset with which to succeed in his current role: 

“The life skills, management skills, training, discipline and self-motivation, everything the military creates in you are great attributes for area engineers. You work remotely from a laptop and a phone and need to be heavily responsible for your own work. FTA appreciated that I was a well-rounded individual with training such as my NBQ level 3 in heavy vehicle training and an amalgamation NBQ, so I can be useful to succeed in the role.”   

Thanks to Mr Hutchinson’s background and vast knowledge, he excelled in the interview process because of his training within an HGV vehicles-based environment. His own direct experience directly supported the demands of the logistics industry and he believes that it gave him the opportunity to utilise the qualifications and training that he had gained in the military.

There is a clear consensus across industry that the opportunity to continue in the skill set of ex-military can be used alongside development of technical skills, to improve employability for future prospects. Skills accumulated from a military background can increase the likelihood of employment and the decrease the time spent in recruitment. For an industry that is driven on technical and practical skills, which are paramount to perform the functions of most logistics job roles, there has never been a better time to consider a move to a logistics role. And the rewards across the industry are excellent – after starting work at, Ryan was supported with a long-term personal development plan to help him understand his role and how to improve and develop his own skill set:

“Like most logistics employers, the FTA delivers a large amount of training in the initial set up, even though I came in as a fully qualified HGV mechanic and an inspector with the better part of eight years’ experience,” he continues. “The FTA has a rigorous training programme to better equip you to the standards our member organisations expect. Before, I didn’t have any experience in testing because that was delivered by the FTA – so they trained me up to do pressure testing and the same with LOLA training. It is necessary to deliver on industry standards – we have to be knowledgeable and our members rely on us to be the experts in our field. Thanks to our extensive training programme, we are well equipped with a substantial knowledge base which helps us maintain the reputation of the FTA.” 

Unlike a career in most jobs, there are a variety of pathways in logistics and some roles can involve extensive travel, both domestically and internationally. “ all part of the job,” continues Hutchinson. “I’m very lucky, I’ve never seen so much of Scotland as I have in the last two years. I get the chance to go to loads of places and beautiful sites and meet some really interesting people that I wouldn’t normally see. That is a huge upside to the job.” He also enjoys the constantly changing working environment: “Every day in logistics is different – one day you can be inspecting different vehicles such as cranes, fork lifts and the next, you could be working with DEFRA standards examining vehicles to maintain animals’ welfare. There really is a vast amount of variety within the job and that’s the logistics industry in general. It’s ever changing and is really enjoyable, as well as challenging.” 

Most recently, Ryan has been assigned a large contract with a Scottish van rescue company, working with representatives from a wide range of businesses, both inside and outside the logistics industry. “The safety inspections I am responsible for play a large role in keeping the public safe: that responsibility is integral to motivating me – I always want to work to the highest standards so I meet the expectations to the members and its clients.  

“There is a feel-good factor to work with a client like that, knowing that the vehicles play a large role and affect so many peoples’ day to day lives. It highlights how important my role is. Engineers help so that the vehicle doesn’t have to come off the road for simple repairs, that’s why inspections are so important in that line of work.”  

To be able to change into a role that is important, not just to the industry but also the public’s lives allows Mr Hutchinson to feel a sense of accomplishment and gives him the necessary drive to push himself further:   

“We all have our tough days but general I really like my job: every job comes with it’s challenges. But if you have good work ethic and you come in with good core skills they require, organisations in this industry will bring you in, give you the help and training you need to do your job to the standards of the company.” 

Changing careers can always be daunting and exhausting, but considering a sector that is renowned for its training capabilities, broad avenues and continual growth, will allow any individual to feel useful and integral to the future of Britain’s economy. Logistics is a diverse sector, essential to every aspect of modern life, and with endless opportunities there has never been a better time to consider a new role. FTA is one of the biggest business groups in the UK, supporting, shaping and standing up for efficient logistics. The only organisation in the UK that represents all of logistics, with members from the road, rail, sea and air industries, as well as the buyers of freight services such as retailers and manufacturers whose businesses depend on the efficient movement of goods.  

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