I’ve been in the industrial and logistics sector for over twenty five years and, over the last few months,I’ve been reflecting on the challenges out customers face if they want to encourage more young people to consider a career within this rapidly growing area. Even writing the words ‘logistics sector’ made me stop and consider if we should be changing the language we use. In short, I began to wonder if we need to re-frame the entire conversation.

It all started in April when an education outreach team from Prologis UK visited a careers fair at a school in the south-east. During the event, the team asked pupils between the ages of 15-17 if they had ever heard of logistics or considered a career within this sector. Perhaps unsurprisingly, 85% of pupils questioned had never heard of logistics and the 15% that had only knew about the sector because a friend or family member worked for a logistics company. Change the question, however, and it’s a completely different story.

When asked if they had ordered goods online within the past month, the response was overwhelmingly positive: every pupil questioned had purchased goods via the internet during that time period and knowledge of the ‘mouse to house’ journey was reasonably comprehensive. Simply by changing the question it was possible to open-up a meaningful conversation based on a common experience.

Shortly after this I was asked to sit on a panel discussing the challenges of sourcing and retaining talent in the industrial and logistics sector at the Property Week Industrial and Logistics Conference in London. Whilst the discussions on our panel were enlightening, what really resonated with me was a speech made by Ben Towers –an 18-year-old entrepreneur who engaged a packed room with his insights into the next generation.

According to Ben ‘authenticity is key and there’s no hiding from it.’ To make the sector interesting to millennials, we need to talk authentically, our marketing needs to be exciting and we need to speak to this generation in a language they understand. Rather than talk generically about logistics, we need to talk about how the ‘magic’ happens, how the brands they encounter every day get goods from a to b and paint a vivid picture of the diversity of career paths available. In short, we need to excite and engage the younger generation.

Let me give you an example

Twenty years ago, when Prologis founded its UK business, nobody would have predicted how ecommerce would completely reshape the logistics sector or how the humble ‘shed’ would become a smart, green, live facility capable of relaying valuable operational data. Technology is driving massive change within the sector and yet, how often do we talk to young people about the exciting career opportunities that this technology brings? We will need highly skilled individuals who can design, develop and maintain this technology.

We also need to realise that young people have a very different attitude towards their careers. Until recently, for example, career paths have generally been viewed as linear things. Now, however, we need to accustom young people to the idea of re-skilling themselves throughout their career in readiness for change. It’s also likely that flexible working and work-life balance are going to be more attractive to millennials than the traditional nine to five culture.

With millennials expected to make up almost 50 percent of the workforce by 2020, these young men and women represent the future of our industry and it’s important that we talk to them in a language they both understand and find engaging. Modern supply chains need employees that are adaptive, flexible and innovative and yet, if we’re honest, our industry still has something of an image problem when it comes to attracting and retaining new talent. Only be reframing the conversation can we start to change that.