Industry spotlight on manufacturing, transport and logistics
Australia’s manufacturing, transport and logistics industry is undergoing significant changes. While many companies in the manufacturing supply chain have adapted to a shifting market, growth in demand across transport and logistics is creating workforce challenges. This is leading more companies to refine their recruitment strategies.

Data from the Transport and Logistics Industry Skills Council shows that truck traffic is expected to increase by 50% between 2010 and 2030 and rail freight will almost double. It also projects a 150% increase in containers crossing Australia’s wharfs.

The latest data from SEEK Employment Trends shows job ads across these areas have also increased year-on-year. In April, job ads for rail and maritime transport rose by 28% compared to the same time last year while road transport roles were up by 21%.

Demand for transport

Tim James, Managing Director for Manufacturing & Operations and Logistics at recruitment firm Hays, says large-scale infrastructure projects, such as Melbourne’s Metro Rail tunnel, are creating greater demand for transport and logistics. “There is so much dirt and rubble to be moved for some of these big infrastructure projects that just finding enough trucks can be a challenge,” he says.

He adds that growth in Australia’s e-commerce industry is leading to a greater need for parcel delivery services. SEEK job ads for couriers, drivers and postal services rose by 9% year-on-year in April.

This increasing demand is creating workforce challenges. As approximately 48% of workers in transport and logistics are aged 45 years or older, experts say employers must develop creative ways to attract younger talent to the industry.

“Truck drivers in particular tend to be older and attracting younger drivers can be a challenge,” says Matthew De Zilva, Head of National Accounts at recruitment firm Adecco. “Employers in this industry may need to work on their employee value proposition to capture the attention of younger workers. Training and clear career path opportunities are two areas to consider.”

Addressing workforce challenges

Linfox is one company tackling the challenge head on. Linfox Logistics employs 6,500 people across Australia and New Zealand and has operations across 10 countries. It is Australia’s largest privately owned logistics company with a presence across a number of industry sectors, including retail, government and defence and fast-moving consumer goods.

Rob Volarich, Group Manager Recruitment and Workforce Planning at Linfox, says training opportunities are an important way of bringing younger drivers into the business. “The ageing workforce presents a challenge for the entire industry,” he says. “Having our own internal recruitment and training functions allows Linfox to employ drivers who may have less experience but are willing to be trained and mentored. We invest in our people through training and development and we have a strong employment brand.”

Focus on diversity

Volarich adds that increasing the company’s focus on workplace diversity is helping to address the challenge. “Diversity in general is important to Linfox, across both gender and cultures,” he says. “We have many women working in operational roles throughout the organisation and are also proud of the number women who occupy senior roles within the business. We are currently working on a strategy that will attract women into more traditional supply chain roles, such as driving and warehousing roles.”

In addition to advertising roles on SEEK, Volarich explains the company provides career progression opportunities by advertising roles internally. “Our latest round of senior leadership announcements all related to internal candidates who have come up through the company,” he says.

Volarich says the Linfox recruitment team also attends trade shows where driver participation rates are expected to be high. He adds that talent pipe-lining, which involves building long-term professional relationships with passive talent for future opportunities, is also key to the Linfox recruitment strategy. “Developing relationships with these individuals puts Linfox front of mind when they decide to seek new employment opportunities,” he says.

Movement in manufacturing

The end of automotive manufacturing in Australia appears to be fast approaching with the much-publicised closure of the Ford factory in Geelong and the announced closure of the Toyota’s Altona plant in Melbourne’s west. However, James says many smaller manufacturers within the supply chain are adapting to the changing market.

“Many of the agile SMEs who were producing components for the automotive industry are now producing parts for other industries, such as infrastructure, construction, defence and medical,” he explains. “Many have been resilient and have made the transition. Companies are looking for candidates who can demonstrate an ability to adapt.”

De Zilva adds that some areas of manufacturing are projected to grow. “Manufacturing within the medical sector is doing well,” he says. “Food manufacturing is also looking good and there is a strong focus on quality control.”

This was reflected in the latest SEEK job ads, which saw a 1% year-on-year lift in quality assurance and control roles.

As the manufacturing industry continues to adapt to a changing market, employers in transport and logistic are facing the challenge of an aging population and growing industry demand. Those who focus on their recruitment strategy will be in driver’s seat for success.