Annika Beyer: Making logistics an appealing experience

Logistics, like many other sectors, is threatened by the shortage of skilled ­professionals – especially as far as professional drivers are concerned. The Heinrich Vogel publishing house intends to alleviate this development through its “Hallo, Zukunft!” (Hello, future!) young talent initiative. 

The supermarket shelves remain empty, the book ordered on the Internet is not delivered and a presentation at work cannot be printed because the paper supply has run out. For many, these scenarios are unthinkable in a time of 24-hour deliveries, express, overnight and premium shipment. Ordered today and delivered tomorrow has become a matter of course.

Only few are aware of the many skilled employees who are working to ensure that the complex process from orders to deliveries runs smoothly. The list of training professions within the logistics sector is extensive, whether it be a qualified specialist in forwarding and logistics services, professional driver in freight transport or management assistant in informatics. More study programmes in logistics have also been established at German universities and universities of applied sciences.

However, a survey conducted by the Bundesvereinigung Logistik (BVL – the German Logistics Association) revealed that the shortage of skilled professionals was the number three among the top issues for the logistics industry in 2014. 44 per cent of the BVL members polled regard this as a particularly import­ant issue, whereby trade and industry consider the issue to be less severe than do the logistics service providers.

Tasks are becoming increasingly complex. The professional drivers are particularly feeling the strain. There are multiple reasons behind this development: truck drivers are often on the road for days and are separated from their families, they are unable to find a parking space along the motorway to take the legally required break, they are exposed to constant pressure and are poorly paid – working conditions in many companies are far from good. This has a negative impact on the occupation’s image. When compulsory military service ended in July 2011, an important source of well-trained drivers also dried up.

Another reason is demographic change: “In the next ten years, we will lose 350,000 drivers due to demographic reasons alone”, predicts Karlheinz Schmidt, Chief Executive of the Bundesverband Güterkraft­ver­kehr, Logistik und Entsorgung (German Haulage, Logistics and Disposal Association – BGL). “We currently have 12,000 lateral entrants seeking career changes each year, plus 3,500 apprentices. When it is calculated gener­ously, the shortage amounts to around 15,000 to 16,000 drivers each year”, adds the association’s executive.

This occupation has also become increasingly more demanding over the past few years: the drivers need to have a firm grasp of load restraints and the complex technology of their high-tech vehicles. Furthermore, they need to be aware of the regulations for driving times and rest periods and demonstrate social competence and communication skills on a daily basis when dealing with customers. Therefore, it is not surprising that a three-year dual training course and regular training in line with the German professional driver qualification law (BKrFQG) is required.

Publishing initiatives to counter the shortage of skilled professionals. Since April 2011, the Heinrich Vogel pub­lishing house has contributed to the fight against the shortage of skilled professionals in the logistics sector through its young talent initiative entitled “Hallo, Zukunft!” (Hello, future!) The patron is Dorothee Bär, parliamentary state secretary at the German Federal Ministry of Trans­port and Digital Infrastructure as well as the coor­dinator of the German Fed­­eral Government for freight transport and logistics. The German toll collector “Toll Collect” has also been supporting the initiative as a co-­initiator since July 2013. In addition, many well-known com­­pa­nies have come together to form a circle of supporters.

This young talent initiative strives to raise the level of awareness of professional training available within the logistics sector and improve the occupation’s public image. The goal is that more students are to be won over by the training prospects in the logistics sector and, conversely, the companies will be supported when it comes to searching for qualified young employees.

The internet site is at the heart of the activities. Along with the latest news from the areas of training and logistics, school students also receive tips on the job application process and comprehensive information on over 20 training professions in the logistics sector. For example, they can use the site to find out how long the professional training placement lasts, which skills are required, how much they will earn during the two to three year training period and which graduation qualification is common. The internet site is complemented by the Facebook site In addition to the online activities, the “Hallo, Zukunft!” youth guidebook is published once a year. This guidebook also provides information on the professional training and is dis­trib­uted at schools, trade fairs and events across Germany.

In cooperation with Toll Collect, the internet site as well as “Hallo, Zukunft! – Spezial” on training for professional drivers have been put in place. The initiators are there to disseminate information but also focus on emotions. For this reason, “Hallo, Zukunft!” has already organised two open houses: several hundred students were able to get up close and personal with logistics at the forwarding companies Wormser Qual­­itätslogistik in Her­­zo­­ge­nau­rach and Wandt in Braun­schweig.

The first round of the trainee competition BEST BKF also kicked off 2014. More than 660 professional driver apprentices in freight transport from 61 vocational schools and 385 companies signed up for the knowledge contest. Numerous industrial representatives were present at the awards ceremony, which took place on 1 July 2014 at the German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure. As of January 2015, the BKF trainees can put their knowledge to the test in the second round of BEST BKF.

The author studied Literature at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München and completed practical training at Springer Fachmedien in Munich. She has been the editor in the editorial team­ of Corporate Publishing and Fahrschule since September 2011. She has managed the “Hallo, Zukunft!” young talent initiative for three years.