labor gap solution-boss magazineWith the country’s freight networks at capacity and demand expected to triple in the next few decades, Australian business leaders are confronting a pronounced lack of skilled logistics and supply chain specialists.

Longstanding difficulties with recruiting trained workers of these kinds have become even more pointed in recent years, and the gap looks set to grow even larger. Determined to provide help, educational institutions of all sorts—from top universities to driver training schools—are overhauling their offerings to better reflect the changing landscape and new levels of demand.

Factors Deepening an Enduring Worker Deficit
With population centers often separated by vast distances, Australia has suffered a decades-long need for more skilled labour in the logistics sector, even as over a million residents toil in the field. That problem has only become worse in recent years with the age of the average driver climbing from 35 to 50 over the past two decades, a clear sign of younger people pursuing opportunities of other sorts.

Just as front-line skilled labour has become harder to find, trained supply chain and logistics managers are becoming scarcer, too. With a full 65 per cent of all management-level job openings in Australia now requiring some training in these fields, it has become clear that a definite skills gap is hampering the effectiveness of these crucial contributors to the country’s economic wellbeing.

Part of the problem is the work of supply chain and logistics managers is changing quickly. Technological advancement is now the rule in these traditionally conservative fields, with companies that fail to keep up dealing with decaying competitiveness as a result. Skills that would put a supply chain manager on the top of the heap even a decade ago are frequently no longer enough. With some estimates putting the nationwide value of a 1 per cent improvement in logistics efficiency at $2 billion, standing still is not an option however.

This is happening as new economic developments threaten to stress Australian supply chains and logistics networks even more heavily. With business leaders and politicians alike promising to make the country the “food bowl” of rapidly growing Asia, for example, demand for these services is growing quickly, even as historically intense mining activity begins to flag.

Education Scrambles to Train New Experts
Whether for blue-collar work or management, entry into these fields requires plenty of specialised training. The Australian government and industry leaders alike have long sought to encourage more workers to acquire the necessary education, with their pleas becoming increasingly desperate in recent years.

labor gap solution-boss magazineAt the University of Sydney’s Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies, a fundamental rethinking of existing programs is now underway. Recognising that the traditional techniques hammered home over the course of its masters-level supply chain management program were becoming outmoded, the school’s leaders have designed a brand new curriculum that revolves around quantitative analysis and systems approaches.

Other groups are starting to reach out more directly to companies seeking workers. Victoria University’s Institute of Supply Chain and Logistics, for example, offers customised, on-site programs that can help businesses upgrade the skills of their existing managers, allowing them to take advantage of new technology-enabled opportunities with a minimum of disruption.

Even those aiming at hands-on work can expect refined, rethought training. With lessened visa availability exacerbating a longstanding lack of heavy-vehicle drivers for instance, vocational schools are searching for new ways to enroll and educate more students. That means an increased emphasis on flexibility and affordability at places like South Australia’s Transport Training Solutions, with hopes that more residents will find their offerings appealing.

Industry groups are providing help, too. Nonprofit organisations like the Supply Chain and Logistics Association of Australia and the Australian Logistics Council focus more and more on raising awareness of the career opportunities within these fields, along with the educational programs that grant entry to them. With member companies clamoring ever more loudly for increased supply from the nation’s supply chain and logistics educators, these marketing-aware groups are providing a bridge to educational organisations that are not always as savvy.