47-48/2017 We depend on talent
Logistics is one of those sectors of the economy in which the lack of trained employees is particularly noticeable. I’m not talking here about the debate concerning the lack of lorry drivers, which has been going on for more than a decade now. Nor am I saying that this problem has even begun to be solved; not at all. It’s just that I actually want to address the entire value-adding chain that the rather staff-intensive logistics and the transport industry has to cover. It’s difficult enough to find good people who can take over and ensure the physical movement of the goods at the various interfaces all along the supply chain. As we know, approximately half of the industry’s employees are busy planning, managing and implementing the appropriate measures in the company itself – and they need the commensurate qualifications for their demanding tasks. We can’t pull these experts out of the hat now, can we? So where on earth will we find them?
Allow me to start with a practical example from close to home, where we know what’s what. In the past Basel, Switzerland’s logistics hot spot with international connections, always made the best of its proximity to France and Germany when employees got thin on the ground domestically. Now these sources of staff are drying up a bit, as the German districts of Lörrach and Waldshut, which border on Switzerland, have an unemployment rate of only around 3%. So there aren’t many specialists available there. Alsace, with an unemployment rate of approximately 9%, may have a few more wage-earners interested in working in Switzerland – but there is a bit of a language barrier there, as command of German is on the decline in Alsace. Thus we don’t expect the 30,000 French and 37,000 German cross-border commuters to rise significantly in the near future.
So what can be done? We have to take the tough way out. We probably won’t achieve success with a mix of training new entrants to the industry, improving the qualifications of existing employees and urging promising young things to join the sector on the basis of local ‘logistics days’. We need first to solve our industry’s classic problem – logistics’ post-modern image.
The extreme solidity of the industry, based as it is on so many medium-sized enterprises, is an argument that should not be underestimated. Go ahead, test the teenage children you know with the remark that "a logistician and a doctor will always find work!" You’ll be surprised by the responses. They listened to me after that! That’s a start, isn’t it?