Industry puts talent struggle on the table

Solving the T&L industry’s skills crisis was on the agenda at an inaugural meeting between government and industry in Canberra yesterday

October 22, 2010

Solving the transport and logistics (T&L) industry’s skills crisis was on the agenda at an inaugural meeting between government and industry in Canberra yesterday.

Anthony Albanese’s Federal Infrastructure and Transport Department welcomed 70 representatives from industry and government with the express aim of selecting four of the country’s most exciting people initiatives to go national.

Co-ordinated by Dr Daryl Hull’s Transport and Logistics Centre (TALC), participants included the Australian Transport Council and state T&L Workforce Advisory Groups.

Initiatives raised as possible contenders for national elevation include a mass media marketing campaign using film to improve the image of the Logistics industry and a National T&L Industry Day concept from NSW.

The VicRoads Truck Action Plan was also popular as well as an initiative to help T&L companies prepare for work experience people rather that leaving it up to individual schools.

Victoria’s Freight and Logistics Council (VFLC) took the opportunity to present over 30 practical initiatives developed by its Workforce Advisory Group which were publically released yesterday.

VFLC chief executive Rose Elphick said that the VFLC’s plan, Meeting the Workforce Challenges of the Transport & Logistics Industry Towards 2020 was written specifically with the Canberra meeting in mind, but that many of the projects are already in place.

The practical nature of the initiatives separate them from the so called "raft of reports in recent times" that focus on the forthcoming challenges for the T&L industry, but have failed to promote enough action.

"We’re on the ground really looking at practical things that will make a difference," Elphick says. As an example, Elphick pointed to a project in Gippsland in which the personnel requirements of 150 transport and logistics companies have been researched and collated.

They will be matched with job seekers who will also be provided with support to develop the skills they need to enter the companies that need them at the necessary levels.

"Details of the industry move too quickly for government to keep pace," Elphick says.

"So that’s an example of a project where we’re on the ground getting practical information with a high level of detail.

"We can actually say there’s a need for 10 drivers here, supply chain managers, supervisors, forklift operators, and so on."

Another initiative in the VFLC’s plan already successfully in motion is a cadetship program coming out of CDT Victoria.

"The program takes kids out of high school and allows them to experience working at companies like Toll, for example," Elphick says.

"The program gives the young people the opportunity to try a number of different areas in a business while getting their qualification over a two year period.

"This is certainly a terrific initiative that could be implemented on a national level."

The meeting has come at a critical time for the T&L industry which must face up to the shortage of talent in its ranks.

"In Victoria alone the industry employs 340,000 people in supply chain, logistics and transport operations, large and small," Elphick says.

"There’s a huge appetite for personnel at all skill levels now … by 2015 the industry’s capacity will be severely tested, and by 2020 the freight task will have grown by 40 percent.

"Just in this state we’ll need an additional 23,000 workers over the next five years – an annual increase of 4,600 employees.

"We face issues of recognising the value of the people we’ve got, attracting new people for workforce renewal and expansion, establishing genuine and satisfying career paths, and – perhaps most fundamental of all – generating the kind of image make over that will draw long-term recruits and reflect T&L’s importance to the Australian community and economy."

The meeting in Canberra was "really positive", with cross fertilisation and interest at such a high level testament to the importance placed on the issues across the country.

"Ministers realise its fine to have the infrastructure but you need somebody to use it," Elphick says

"I suppose were looking for very practical initiatives and a strong partnership between government and industry to really make an impact in this area.

"It’s about the workforce we’re going to need over the next ten years as the Baby Boomers leave the industry.

"We have to get organised because we don’t have very long."

The VFLC’s plan will be taken to industry in coming months for further input and suggestions.

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