The first national Logistics and Supply Chain Skills Week, organised by the Department of Transport, Tourism & Sport, took place from 27 March to 1 April, consisting of a mix of in-person and online events. Irish International Freight Association worked with University of Limerick to deliver a webinar on the theme of Supply Chain for Career Changers, with three speakers approaching the topic from their own unique perspectives: Ana Lozovanu of Expeditors Ireland Ltd, Bruno Chistoni of Wells Cargo Logistics Ltd, and Dr Ingrid Hunt, Senior Educational Developer at University of Limerick (UL).
Logistics and Supply Chain Skills Week is an initiative to promote careers in and raise awareness of the industry. The key aim of the Logistics week is to ‘promote careers and educational opportunities in the Irish logistics and supply chain sector’, with the speakers in the Supply Chain for Career Changers webinar addressing the reasons they moved into the industry, and the ways by which others might do the same.
Ana Lozovanu moved to Ireland in 2016, after earning a degree in Economics with a speciality in Merceology and Trade. After a year in hospitality, she then began a five year career as a Personal Trainer. In 2022, Ana completed her transition from the fitness industry, which she said struggled as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, into a new career as a Logistics Co-ordinator with Expeditors Ireland Ltd.
Wanting to develop herself professionally and wanting to feel valued for her contributions in the workplace, she looked at the industries that were thriving, rather than struggling, through the pandemic.
Bruno Chistoni moved into logistics after years working in warehousing for retailers. In 2020, he completed the FIATA Diploma in Freight Forwarding with IIFA.
He is now employed as a Road Freight Specialist in LCL (Less than Container Load) between Italy and Ireland with Wells Cargo Logistics Ltd. Bruno was keen to note a culture of collaboration to make sure the customer is always happy, thriving on the effort that the customer doesn’t see behind the scenes.
During the webinar, Ana was keen to highlight some of the skills necessary for the job. Top of her list, and reinforced by Dr Ingrid Hunt, was excellent communication. Regardless of technical skill, communication is noted as an essential skill to ensure the correct information is communicated and nothing is lost in translation. Bruno noted that when working in freight forwarding, he’s not always dealing with people who have English as a first language.
Ana’s other recommended skills for those looking to break into the industry are a strong work ethic, time management and consistency, as well as the capacity to work as a team. In her own words, “There is no way to grow on your own… if you’re a team player, you can reach high.”
To top it off, Bruno assures potential freight forwarders that the technical skills they need for the job develop through the day-to-day work.
Drawing on her experience as a Personal Trainer, Ana offered some key tips for anyone looking to move their career into Supply Chain logistics, starting with two questions:
Beyond that, she encourages future freight forwarders to seek out mentorship programs, to stay positive, and to ask for advice. Most important, she says people need to break out of their comfort zones.
There’s no one path into a career into Supply Chain Logistics. Dr Ingrid Hunt from UL provided an insight into some of the options available, drawing on her 25 years in the industry, which includes her experiences as an Academic Director, Evaluator, Project Manager and Lecturer. In UL, she has responsibility for two MSc Programmes and the industry learners research projects, which explore areas such as risk management, responsible sourcing and carbon footprints alongside artificial intelligence and cloud computing.
Dr Hunt outlined two broad paths to entry via UL: Supply Chain Management programmes, and a unique to Ireland apprenticeship in Supply Chain Management with links to a Masters Degree.
The purely academic routes into Supply Chain Logistics at UL are a mix of fully online and blended learning courses, with customisation available for learners and their industry focus. Because the learners come from a variety of backgrounds, with most continuing to work full-time while they upskill or study for a career change, there’s a emphasis on independent learning, and a desire that the students learn from each other outside of the lecture hall.
Outside of the university, people can follow in Bruno’s footsteps and pursue a career via the FIATA Diploma.
In order to achieve a greater gender balance in the industry, more efforts are being made to encourage women to work in Supply Chain Logistics. This starts as early as primary and secondary school in Ireland, with a push for more STEM subjects with female students, and utilisation of Transition Year to make a lasting impact. Dr Hunt noted that initiatives at work at present include a day in the life of a Supply Chain Manager, to help students understand the roles and careers that exist within the industry.
With the adult workforce, the focus is on employer driven recruitment and retention through flexible working policies, mentoring and networking, clear progression pathways, and a parity of pay and opportunity.
Challenges are central to Bruno Chistoni’s work as a Freight Forwarder working in Road Freight. Working in the area of Less than Container Load (LCL), Bruno’s job requires precise information about cargo, and regularly has to juggle cargo combinations. Cross contamination and the shipping of dangerous cargo is something he always has to be mindful of, as too as the different driving regulations for different counties.
While Bruno’s job is to predict delays along the way with all of this in mind, one thing he can’t predict is the impact of the weather. This is particularly pertinent when it comes to seafaring, which Bruno’s work deals with along the shipping routes between Ireland and Italy.
Even with those problems, he says, “It is challenging, but I find it really rewarding to me at the end of every single week.”
Both of the career changers taking part in the Supply Chain for Career Changers webinar addressed the challenges as part of the enjoyment for the job. Ana loved problem solving, and says she’s always very eager to find solutions when there’s a problem with a shipment, to figure out what went wrong and how to improve the process.
In Bruno’s case, no two weeks are the same, there’s always a new challenge. He likes learning from others in the industry, nothing that there are different ways to do the same job, addressing the same issues and approaching problems from different angles.
For Ana Lozovanu, the next step in her career is to specialise into a role. She’s currently looking at options around freight forwarding, whether that’s in air or ocean freight, compliance, or in dangerous goods.
Bruno Chistoni, on the other hand, is planning to generalise his scope in Supply Chain Logistics. While his current role deals with Road Freight, he wants to learn more about the processes in Air Freight and Ocean Freight so that he can better perform.
Logistics and Supply Chain Skills Week may have finished, but there are always plenty of opportunities to learn more about the industry and develop the skills to join an area that as thrived through some difficult years. The IIFA FIATA Diploma in Freight Forwarding is an internationally recognised qualification covering the cornerstones of the Freight Forwarding and international Supply Chain industry, taking place annually over a ten month period from September to June.
Learn more here: FIATA Diploma in Freight Forwarding - IIFA - The Irish International Freight Association