Up, up and away
All three categories of air, land and sea offer commercial and private services for transporting passengers, cargo and shipping. The sector is often referred to as the transport and logistics sector, with transport relating to passengers and logistics referring to freight and goods. Logistics, simply put, is concerned with managing the supply chain to get the right goods to the right place at the right time and cost. It is essential for manufacturers, retailers and governments among others, and, according to government sources, is responsible for approximately 5 per cent of UK gross domestic product (GDP), as well as the employment of just under two million people.
Passenger transport is comprised of many industries including:
Passenger transport is unsurprisingly massive, considering the number of sub-industries it encompasses. In the UK there are approximately 225,000 people working in the bus and coach industry and close to 165,000 taxi and private hire drivers. There are around 126,000 people directly employed in aviation and 40,000 in train companies as well as a further 115,000 as engineers and signallers. Overall there are approximately 610,000 people working in the UK transport sector.
Who gets hired?
While a degree in engineering or supply chain management is necessary for some roles, the industry is truly multidisciplinary and requires graduates from a broad range of disciplines. Subjects such as economics, marketing, information technology, business studies, environmental studies, mathematics and human resources are especially relevant. Graduates from these disciplines are in demand by employers, but they are not the only routes into the profession. There will also be roles for applicants with a wider range of relevant skills. Most employers put trainees through a rigorous training programme, which can last up to two years in some organisations. This process ensures that new employees can function effectively within the organisation. Graduates must be good communicators, team players, patient and have analytical minds and strong problem-solving skills. A relevant masters degree can add approximately #3,000 on top of an average starting salary of #20,000.
Which job role?
The wide variety of potential roles for graduates in the transport sector includes:
Civil air traffic controller
Air traffic controllers obviously have an important role. They maintain the safe movement of aircraft along major air routes and around airports by instructing pilots as to height, speed and course. They are responsible for ensuring aircrafts maintain a safe distance from each other and travel in particular pre-determined sectors.
Forwarders organise the movement of goods on behalf of an exporter, importer or another third party. Freight forwarders arrange the most efficient and cost-effective methods of transport, which vary depending on the type of goods and the customers' delivery requirements.
A port manager oversees the operation of one or a group of ports. They are responsible for everything, from monitoring profit and loss to ensuring that all clients receive an efficient service.
Rail operations manager
Rail operations managers ensure the safe and cost-effective operation of passenger and freight services. Responsible for the operational and strategic management of company staff, services and infrastructure, the operations manager will liaise closely with a wide range of individuals and bodies. These include train crew management, station and train retail management, those working in commercial, contracts and project management and others based in construction and engineering positions.
Engineers ensure that traffic management schemes are well planned, cost-efficient, sustainable and fully integrated. Engineers who work for a local authority plan design and monitor road systems to accommodate the safe flow of traffic for all users. Engineers working for contracts oversee the work on the ground: they interpret designs and oversee the work of construction workers on the site.
A transportation planner forecasts travel patterns. The role of the transport planning professional has widened over the years and now places a large emphasis on developing strategies to manage, demand and change travel behaviour in line with governmental guidelines, which include reducing car use, encouraging walking and cycling and promoting the use of public transport.
Approximately 60 per cent of pilots are employed by commercial airlines. Pilots are responsible for the safe flight of the aircraft. The captain has overall responsibility for the safety of the aircraft, its passengers and crew. Aircrafts are usually operated by four pilots, depending on the type of craft and length of journey. Pilots are normally employed in one of four areas: passenger scheduled services; passenger charter services; freight services and business aviation. The last is the biggest sector in the world including private aircraft, flight schools and companies transporting oil and gas workers to offshore rigs.
Air cabin crew
An air cabin crew is responsible for the safety, welfare, comfort and care of passengers on board an aircraft. They greet passengers boarding the aircraft and attend to their needs throughout the journey. Passenger safety is the primary responsibility of cabin crew so pre- and post-flight checks are a fundamental part of the job. They are also expected to give excellent customer service, remaining friendly, courteous and enthusiastic throughout the flight.
Positions within the transport industry are tough, although they are often thought of as glamorous. Due to the nature of the job, pilots and cabin crew will spend a long time away from home. In addition, the wages for cabin crew are not particularly competitive -- some cabin crew start at approximately #15,000 per annum. Pilots have a tough job, with the life of everybody on board literally in their hands, they must remain calm under pressure and have perfect vision and hearing.
Other jobs, such as port manager and transportation planner, also have tremendous responsibility and particularly stressful jobs. People in these roles must have analytical minds and extremely strong problem-solving and negotiation skills.
The main players
The major employers of graduates in this industry are transport consultancies, airport authorities, aviation and third party logistics. There are a variety of major employers within this industry. Larger transport consultancies recruit in double figures from an array of disciplines at both graduate and higher degree level. Graduates with a relevant degree or Masters in transport, planning or engineering are particularly well-placed for entry into the sector.
Graduates have traditionally worked for airport authorities running major airports. Working for an airport authority can be very varied. Graduates can be taken into the airport operations field where they will be trained to ensure the safe landing and take-off of aircraft. Alternatively, they can be taken into areas such as marketing, web development and human resources.
Air travel is the UK's fastest growing sector for both people and freight. The number of passengers has trebled over the past two decades. After The September 11th Attacks airlines suffered economically and as a cost-cutting measure many airlines such as British Airways (BA) suspended graduate recruitment. However, given the upturn in air travel, especially in budget airlines, there is a new graduate scheme called Wings. This is a two-year programme that supplies pilots to Easyjet, First Choice and BA. The scheme takes on around 60 graduates a year. Nearly all the major carriers offer graduate training schemes where graduates can specialise in a number of areas such as finance, human resources, marketing, etc.
Third party logistics providers are also large recruiters of graduates. Graduates will generally work their way up the ladder to become a logistics manager. Logistics managers are responsible for the whole logistics operation, sitting above a team of logisticians with different responsibilities and skills. The supply chain logistics approach to management is now utilised by many of the world's leading companies. So there is strong demand for well-trained graduate logisticians to design, manage and improve supply chains.
Ports are also major employers of graduates, with individual ports taking on a number of graduates from a variety of disciplines every year. UK ports handle approximately 95 per cent of Britain's total export and import tonnage. The value of trade through British ports last year was around #340 billion. Ports directly employ around 75,000 people.
BA, one of the world's largest airlines, is a major employer of graduates. BA recruits around 200 graduates a year. The company has graduate development schemes for trainee pilots and engineers as well as other placements in human resources, finance, marketing, sales and IT. Stagecoach UK Bus -- part of Stagecoach Group, one of the world's largest transport groups -- is also a major employer of graduates. The company, which employs around 18,000 staff in the UK, recruits graduates from a variety of disciplines.