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Careers Centre

Logistics and transport

Sector Overview

This page has been written by Bonnie Hacking, Enterprise & Employability Adviser, incorporating information from the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport and their Regional Chairman, Ken Thomson.  To see how you can meet Bonnie, or any of our advisers, see Careers advice.

Employing over two million people in the UK, working in more than 192,500 companies, the logistics and transport sectors play key roles in the nation’s economy and account for 14% of all employment in the UK. The sector is dominated by small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), though there are some well recognised large firms. The Government has recognised the important role passenger transport and travel play within the UK and is currently investing heavily in infrastructure projects such as the Crossrail and HS2, as well as potential airport expansion in London.

According to the State of the Nation 2013: Passenger Transport and Travel report, aviation, taxi and private hire, and rail are all seeing rising employment. Demand for new recruits is likely to continue, especially as the sector currently has an ageing workforce.

Nature of sector or roles

There is a huge variety of options and roles available in this sector - literally hundreds, ranging from managerial or planning to operational. Within larger companies, there are opportunities for graduates in support functions, for example human resources, marketing, customer service and finance. A first step in considering a career in this sector is to investigate the options and think about what might be of interest. A good place to start is the eight sub-sectors as defined by the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT).

Active travel and travel planning

Travel planning and active travel, are part of the sustainable transport sector, accounting for over 450,000 UK jobs. The work will vary depending on whether you work in the public or private sector or with a consultancy. Whatever, the location it will involve some aspect of development and/or implementation of initiatives to support a more sustainable approach to work and travel, including active travel plans to promote and increase physical activity levels in the local community. Active travel and travel planning encompass bus, rail, light rail, cycling and walking.

Transport Planning

We all need to get around – whether by plane, train, bus, car, bicycle or even on foot – and we need the infrastructure in place to enable us to do so. It is the transport planners who plan, manage and improve the transport systems. Transport planners prepare, assess and implement policies, plans and projects to improve and manage our transport systems. There is a need for transport planning on a local, regional, national and international level. It can involve understanding the link between transport and the future shape of our towns and cities, the economy, the environment and climate change, and the quality of life. It is also about changing people's attitudes towards travel to encourage use of alternatives to the private car. (Transport Planning Society). Transport planning concerns all parts of the transport system from walking and cycling, to use of cars, lorries, buses and trains, air and even space travel.

Supply chain management

Supply chain management (SCM) is the management discipline that aims to satisfy customers every time, everywhere. SCM is about managing the flow of goods from the point of origin (a factory anywhere in the world) to its final destination, in a shopping basket or delivered to your home address.

SCM is a relatively new management discipline and has developed from bringing together more traditional roles of buying, transport, freight forwarding, manufacturing and retailing. It is increasingly making use of technology such as internet, satellite communications, radio frequency identification (RFID) and global positioning systems (GPS).

Aviation

Aviation is a truly global sector, offering a variety of exciting and rewarding career prospects across a wide range of activities. Currently around 200,000 people work at airports or for airlines in the UK. It’s a fast-growing industry, offering a variety of exciting and rewarding career prospects across a wide range of activities.

The UK is a world leader in this sector, with Heathrow the busiest airport in the UK and the third busiest in the world. Whether for business travel, leisure, or moving freight around the world, airlines and airports are a key component of 21st century activity.

Bus and coach

The bus industry is dominated by a number of large companies whereas the coach industry comprises a large number of small and micro-businesses. The UK bus industry supports around 200,000 jobs, as well as thousands of others in bus manufacturing and support services. In total, there are around 9,000 companies licenced to operate buses and coaches in the UK, with around 22,000 registered bus services. Buses are key to the country’s transport system and carry around two-thirds of all passengers using public transport – around four times the number of people who use trains. The sector includes scheduled intercity, urban and suburban bus, coach and tram services, non-scheduled and charter bus and coach services. It also includes the operation of terminal facilities and coach day trips and longer holiday tours.

The bus and coach industry offer a number of career opportunities from managing various aspects of the service to driving jobs to customer services, operations and engineering support.  It is predicted that there will be a need to recruit around 30,000 drivers a year over the next few years as drivers are currently an ‘ageing workforce’.

Ports, maritime and waterways

Transporting goods by water allows for very large quantities to be shipped. Careers in waterborne logistics are responsible for moving vast quantities of goods from one place to another, via oceans and waterways. Waterborne freight careers tend to be carried out around large international ports. National economies rely on imports and exports and customers rely on prompt delivery. Consequently, careers in this subsector play an important role in the global economy. All about careers. Transporting passengers by water is also within this subsector.

Rail

The UK rail industry accounts for expenditure of around £12 billion per year and provides more than 200,000 UK jobs, with around 40 percent of those in the supply chain. From Virgin’s Pendolinos to London’s automated Docklands system, rail is the most environmentally friendly way to transport people and freight around the country. There is a wide range of career opportunities fuelled by the fast growth of the sector, and a demand for enthusiastic people with new ideas to meet the challenges ahead. Careers range from managing your own patch to designing and building the future. Rail transport is growing fast and needs enthusiastic people with new ideas to meet the challenges ahead.

Freight forwarding

Freight forwarders organise the movement of goods and cargo around the UK and overseas, acting as an intermediary on behalf of importers, exporters or other companies or individuals. They are responsible for organising the safe, efficient and cost-effective transportation of goods by road, rail, air and sea. In some cases, the freight forwarding company itself provides the transportation service.

The fortunes of the freight forwarding sector are a barometer of the state of world trade. It is estimated the UK market for international freight services will increase by 15.7% from £18.71bn in 2011 to £21.69bn in 2015, which is positive news in terms of employment prospects in the sector (www.keynote.co.uk).

Companies vary in size and type, from those operating on a national and international basis to smaller, more specialised firms, who deal with particular types of goods or operate within particular geographical areas.

 Further information on the sector:

Networks - why and how to use them

Networking is particularly important and can help you succeed with your applications. If you have been in contact with someone working for the organisation then you have extra information to back up your case for why they should employ you. Use social media sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook (many organisations have their own page) to connect with organisations. Recent St Andrews graduates have gone on to work for Transport for London and Network Rail. Alumni can make extremely useful contacts, giving you an "edge" with your applications and interviews. There are several ways to make contact with alumni.

How to gain experience/internships

Having relevant work experience may be helpful when applying for jobs and it will also prove that you are genuinely interested in a career in transport/logistics. It's also an effective way of finding out whether this sector is right for you.

Many larger organisations run formal structured internship programmes. They can, however, be very competitive. These are normally open to second year/penultimate year students and take place for a couple of months during the summer. Many employers use their placement schemes as the first stage in graduate recruitment - interns who impress may be fast-tracked through the graduate recruitment process. Use the companies listed in the 'How to get a (graduate) job' section as a starting point for searching for internship schemes.

Making speculative applications

If you’re interested in working for a small company, or a company that doesn’t offer a structured internship programme, speculative applications can be a great way to generate opportunities - contact them directly to learn whether or not they might offer work experience, shadowing or internships - see our web pages on networking and speculative applications for more advice.

How to get a (graduate) job

While a specialised degree in logistics is essential for some positions, the industry is very diverse and requires people with a range of degrees from many backgrounds. Key skills and requirements will vary according to the role you are interested in. Organisations do, however, look for candidates who can communicate well in person and in writing, and team players with strong analytical and problem-solving skills who are able to multi-task.

Although many transport/logistics recruiters look for applicants with a 2.1, some employers will accept graduates with a 2.2 degree on to their graduate schemes – or entry-level jobs.

Subjects such as economics, marketing, IT, business studies, geography, environmental studies and languages may be particularly relevant, but there are roles for applicants with a wide range of transferable skills. It is worth checking with each individual occupation to find out if a relevant degree is required or if a particular subject is more applicable than others.

Graduate Training Schemes

Many larger organisations offer graduate training schemes in the transport and logistics sector. Examples include:

Jobs online

The following websites specialise in advertising vacancies in Transport & Logistics:

The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) UK has produced a guide about careers in this sector, which includes a list of specialist logistics, supply chain and transport management recruitment consultants.

Applications, interviews and assessment centres

The recruitment process for transport/logistics graduate training schemes can vary from company to company, but is likely to consist of one or more of the following:

Research the company prior to an interview to understand the skills and competencies they are looking for. Also check the employer’s website as many provide details on their own individual recruitment and selection processes.

Closing dates vary, but can be relatively early in your final year – in many cases between November and January.  Check websites regularly for up-to-date details.

Relevant postgraduate study

Whether or not you will need to undertake postgraduate study will depend on the role you are interested in. If you wish to be a logistics and distribution manager, you may not require a postgraduate degree, however further training through professional bodies may be advantageous.  As additional qualifications will also make you a more valuable asset to the organisation, many employers will offer support through your studies. For example, Transport for London (TfL) offers day release to study for an MSc in Transport Planning for appropriate graduates in the second year of employment.  Some roles require a specific qualification, for example, if you want to become an airline pilot, you would usually start your career as a first officer after gaining at least an Airline Transport Pilot's Licence (ATPL), available through an integrated course or module training.

For other jobs, being a member of a professional body is voluntary and can be valuable for developing networks, continued professional development and generally keeping up-to-date with what is happening in the industry.

The Chartered Institute of Logistics & Transport (CILT) is a recognised provider of professional qualifications for the logistics and transport sector. It provides a range of courses to suit all levels of ability, ranging from new entrants to those who are progressing to strategic management.

Key Links and Resources

Careers Centre

Online

Use CareerConnect, your central careers hub, to:

GoinGlobal

General transport/logistics careers information:

Professional Bodies, Trade Organisations & Journals/Magazines: