With record levels of investment in the UK's roads, rail, ports and airports, a new generation of skilled workers is needed to help shape the future of the transport sector
What areas of transport and logistics can I work in?
The sector covers a number of areas including freight logistics, supply chain management, vehicle manufacturing and retail, passenger transport, transport planning and traffic management.
Passenger transport incorporates operations (driver, pilot and air crew), route planning, customer service and safety. This is then split into:
- bus and coach
- light rail, tram and metro services
- taxi and private hire
- water transport.
Logistics/supply chain can be broken down into:
- freight transportation
- maritime and port operations
- postal and courier activities
- warehousing, storage and handling.
Large transport companies also recruit graduates to HR, finance, IT, sales and marketing, communications and procurement roles.
For examples of careers in the industry, see transport and logistics graduate jobs.
Do I need a related degree?
For graduate roles in passenger transport management, any degree subject is normally accepted, although some employers may prefer it to be business or economics related.
In logistics and supply positions, a logistics degree is often expected, while for engineering jobs an accredited engineering degree is typically an essential requirement.
Some positions don't require a degree, but you must have professional qualifications. For example, to become a pilot you'll need an Airline Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL), and to drive a lorry, bus or coach you'll need a Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (Driver CPC) - or apply for a National Vocational Training (NVT) concession while you're driving.
For information on entry requirements and relevant qualifications for different roles, see transport and logistics job profiles.
What skills do employers want?
Graduate recruiters are looking for candidates with:
- excellent communication and customer service skills
- flexibility, adaptability and the ability to be mobile
- organisational and strategic planning skills
- practical problem-solving ability.
Who are the main graduate employers?
The sector is dominated by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), with the remaining large firms the most likely to take on graduates straight from university.
In rail, coach, bus and private hire, employers include:
- Addison Lee
- Enterprise Rent-A-Car
- National Express
- Network Rail
- Stagecoach Group
- Transport for London (TfL)
- Virgin Trains.
Logistics and transportation companies include:
- P&O Ferrymasters
- Stobart Group
The main employers in air transport are:
- Heathrow Airport
- International Airlines Group (which includes Aer Lingus, British Airways and Iberia)
- Manchester Airports Group (MAG)
- Virgin Atlantic.
In water transport, you may look for opportunities with:
- P&O Ferries
- Peel Ports Group (six UK ports including Liverpool and Manchester Ship Canal).
While for postal and courier activity opportunities, you may look to:
- FedEx (also owns TNT Express)
- Hermes Group
- Royal Mail Group
- UK Mail
Transport planners typically work for consultancies, local government or construction companies.
What's it like working in transport and logistics?
Graduates entering the sector can expect:
- a variety of working environments. For instance, if you're working in air transport as a pilot or cabin crew member you'll travel, spending time in airports and on planes. Managers in transport and logistics work in offices, but they may be located in sea ports, airports or distribution warehouses.
- long working hours. Employees often work outside of normal hours, including early mornings, evenings and weekends.
- a wide range of salaries. In management roles starting salaries can be relatively low, but typically rise considerably at senior levels. Train drivers earn on average £47,000 a year, while pilots can earn more than £100,000.
How do I get a graduate job in transport and logistics?
Some of the larger organisations offer transport graduate schemes in disciplines including: general management, engineering, operations, transport planning and logistics, IT, finance and HR.
You can find out more about road and railways careers and visit the websites of leading employers, including Network Rail, Transport for London (TfL) and engineering consultancy Mott MacDonald.
Large postal and courier delivery companies such as DHL, DPD and Royal Mail Group run formal graduate programmes.
There are also plenty of openings for graduates with an understanding of logistics and supply chain management who have the strong communication and relationship-building skills needed to work with suppliers and customers. Gist, Boots, Lidl and EDF Energy are among the employers offering these graduate opportunities.
For those seeking careers in air travel, many leading private employers run airline graduate schemes - for example, British Airways runs two and three-year schemes in fields such as engineering, logistics (IAG Cargo) and operational research, while easyJet have a two-year rotational programme in areas including operations, IT, finance and procurement, product and marketing, strategy and implementation, markets and HR.
As smaller companies tend to use less formal recruitment methods than larger employers, you'll usually need to apply speculatively. It's also important to build up a network of contacts, with many opportunities found through social networking or word of mouth.
To discover the graduate roles currently available, search transport industry jobs.
Where can I get work experience?
Candidates with work experience often have a distinct advantage, and there's a tendency for employers to recruit experienced staff looking to change companies rather than newly qualified graduates without experience.
However, some of the larger organisations, such as Arriva, Transport for London (TfL), British Airways and DHL offer formal work experience through industrial placements of up to one year or internships during the summer break.
As the majority of organisations are SMEs, many don't advertise formal transport internships or work placements - but you can still approach them about possible opportunities.
What logistics apprenticeships are available?
Some jobs in transport and logistics can be entered with an apprenticeship. This is especially true for logistics.
Network Rail run an advanced engineering apprentice scheme, while TfL has options available in a number of different areas, including management and planning, commercial services, and tech and data. Highways England is also training new apprentices and graduates in its Highways Academy.
Leading airlines also offer apprenticeships - for example, British Airways recruits apprentices in customer, operations, and professional services and business support roles.
Should I consider transport and logistics courses?
For most transportation careers a postgraduate qualification isn't required, but having one may give you a real advantage in growth areas such as logistics if you don't have a related undergraduate degree.
Further training through professional bodies may be an advantage for developing networks, continuing professional development (CPD) and keeping up to date with advances in the industry.
Whatever level you're currently at, the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) in the UK provides details of relevant transport and logistics courses to help you progress your career.
Examples of other transport qualifications include:
- training in freight forwarding procedures offered by the British International Freight Association (BIFA)
- career pathways in procurement and supply from the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply (CIPS)
- routes to professional accreditation in highways and transportation with the Chartered Institution of Highways & Transportation (CIHT)
- a Masters in International Trade, Strategy and Operations with the Institute of Export & International Trade
- courses in all aspects of supply chain operations run by the Institute of Supply Chain Management (IoSCM)
- the transport planning professional qualification for transport planners Transport Planning Society (TPS).
What are the key trends?
People are making twice as many journeys as they did in 1970 - as highlighted in the Department for Transport's (DfT) January 2016 report Transport infrastructure skills strategy: building sustainable skills, published in collaboration with Crossrail, Transport for London (TfL), Highways England, Network Rail and High Speed Two (HS2). Britain's transport network is struggling to cope with this increased demand.
Since then, the Department for Transport has set out its commitment to investment in transport infrastructure, which incorporates the upgrading of Britain's road and rail network, in its Transport investment strategy report.
More than £61billion has already been allocated over the five years leading to 2020/21, with notable projects including the A14 road upgrade and HS2, the high speed rail link, plus major work on the East and West Coast Main Lines. There's also the proposed expansion of Heathrow Airport in London.
Following the rise in online shopping over recent years, logistics and supply chain management is also a growth area. Retail giant Amazon has rolled out its own network across the UK, with Amazon Logistics delivering goods directly to the consumer. Other big-name brands, including Sainsbury's, John Lewis, Tesco and Aldi have enlisted the services of iForce to manage their multi-channel retail logistics and handle their supply chain management.
Finally, as the UK maritime sector plays a significant role in the global industry, there's always demand for engineers, surveyors, mechanics, lawyers, ship managers and brokers.