Addressing skills shortages

The logistics sector is undergoing monumental change, both from a technological and global standpoint. While AI is set to prove a major disruptor, a new set of dynamics in terms of the world’s economy and environmental conditions is already impacting supply chains.

The Panama Canal, for example, experienced low water levels during the region’s driest October in 73 years and, according to a South African Association of Freight Forwarders report, new operational measures will be in place until February 2024.

The switch to electric vehicles is also placing more focus on Africa. SAAFF says several countries, including the US, are working on developing the Lobito Corridor, a new rail line project in central Africa intended to create a trade route for minerals used in new energy vehicle production.

The supply chain industry is also battling a significant skills shortage across the board, from manual tasks, such as warehouse order picking, to building and maintaining supply chain systems.

Clare Tonkin, National Human Resources Manager for BIL, says companies are at risk of becoming irrelevant if shortfalls result in clients’ service needs not being met. “It’s quite a niche environment. In South Africa, customs compliance is especially concerning with regard to skills shortages.”

National HR manager for BIL Overland Logistics, Veren Jackpersad, says it has become crucial for companies to develop talent pools, both for the present and future. “It starts with a creative recruitment approach that allows for wider attraction of the market. Much of this is done via learnerships, graduate and training programmes designed in-house to address specific needs,” he says.

“We also need to multi skill the current workforce though training. Furthermore, companies must develop and implement effective reward and retention strategies that are relevant to the greater workforce.”

Creating an agile, hybrid workforce as well as investing in digitalisation and internal/external CSI initiatives such as youth-focused study loans and internships are additional ways to develop talent.

“Utilising technology to attract talent is also important from a recruitment perspective. Companies need to give prospective candidates an overwhelming experience from the get-go.”

Adds Tonkin, “As tech and AI evolve, we need to ensure that we are recruiting the right skills. We should bear in mind that skill sets might not look the same as five or 10 years ago.”

Jackpersad notes that all stakeholders must address the skills shortage applicable to each country, region and place. “Understandably, some countries have evolved into the digital sphere of the industry in which human beings aren’t required at a level of 100%. However, the landscape of receiving countries could be considerably different.”