Apprentices in the freight and logistics sectors have continued to learn while supporting vital business operations during the Covid-19 pandemic. Their skills and experience will stand them in good stead as they grow their career in an exciting and fast-moving industry.

We interviewed six apprentices who have recently undertaken the level 3 International Freight Forwarding Specialist apprenticeship, and have risen to the challenge of learning and working during a global pandemic. All of them were shortlisted for the 2020 British International Freight Association (BIFA) Freight Services Awards.

We asked them about their experience on programme and why they would recommend the apprenticeship route.

Stuart Lupton, 20, DHL Global Forwarding

Based in Hayes, near Heathrow Airport, Stuart started his air import and export apprenticeship in October 2018, completing it in October 2019 and securing a permanent position with DHL Global Forwarding UK.

He said: “I came straight from sixth form. I knew I didn’t want to go to university – I’m more of a hands-on learner. I saw the apprenticeship with DHL and could envisage myself doing it on a day-to-day basis. It intrigued me, what they could be moving around the world and the thought that I could be involved.

“I have worked throughout the pandemic, most of the time in the office. Despite coronavirus, it’s very much been business as usual.

“I love the sense of accomplishment when I get a job done. It’s interesting to know what you’re moving and that you’re going to help somebody to get their medication, or transport radioactive materials to help someone to get their cancer treatment.”

Chloe Hamlett, 20, Charles Kendall Freight

Based at Trafford Park, Stretford, Manchester, Chloe started her Ocean Exports freight forwarding apprenticeship in November 2018, completing it in June 2020.

Having completed Business Studies at A-Level, Chloe was interested in supply chains and learning about how things move from one place to another. She realised that with an apprenticeship she would get training and experience while earning a wage, which seemed the best way to progress into a career.

She said, “I really enjoy it. It’s great to be around different people, who have different experiences and help me to progress my learning.

“During lockdown I carried on working on site, as we had to have people here to help out with loading. Sometimes I worked from home if I had to isolate.

“I’ve been helping to keep things coming in and out of the country. It’s been a crazy time. I’m  mainly exporting to North America, but also to the Philippines and Japan. We export everything that people need, from drinks and toiletries to machinery.

“From day one I started to learn new skills, it helped with my confidence because I was very shy. Now I speak to people on the phone and by email and I don’t feel uncomfortable.”

Harry Wilson, 21, Ligentia

Based in Tilbury, Essex, Harry joined Ligentia in September 2019 as part of the International Freight Forwarding Apprenticeship Scheme. Harry chose the apprenticeship route after completing his A levels and gaining some work and volunteering experience at a Job Resource Centre.

He said, “While I was helping other people to apply for jobs, I applied myself. I thought the ocean exports apprenticeship at Ligentia would be interesting, with a lot to learn.

“I’ve worked more months in lockdown than in the office, which has proven difficult at times. However, by being in constant contact with the rest of my team including my line manager via WhatsApp, email and Microsoft Teams my learning journey has continued without disruption.

“I have also become involved with BIFA’s Young Forwarder Network. We’ve been meeting online with different speakers and that’s really enjoyable and a chance to learn. I do feel I’ve learned and developed a lot.”

Eloise Hill, 24, DHL Global Forwarding (UK) Ltd

Based in Birmingham, Eloise joined DHL Global Forwarding (UK) Ltd in October 2018 and was nearing completion of her apprenticeship when the first lockdown began. She has worked from home throughout the pandemic and has adapted well.

She said, “I was keen to join DHL as I wanted a career. I really enjoy it – it’s a really fast pace and I like being busy, learning every day.

“I started in imports and moved to the export team – I realised that’s what I enjoyed more, and I was able to stay with them when my apprenticeship ended. My main trade lanes are Canada and the USA but some of my customers also export to China and South Korea.

“I think an apprenticeship is a really good way of learning. I didn’t know anything about the industry, so it is a good way to learn on the job. It was nice to start afresh and there was a lot of training and support from everyone at work.”

Ben Milligan, DHL Global Forwarding (UK) Ltd

Based in Leeds, Ben started his apprenticeship in ocean freight exports in November 2019 and hopes to complete it by May this year.

Ben’s team exports goods to the Far East, Middle East, South America and the USA, ranging from automotive parts and engineering tools to food flavourings, and he has become a valued member of the team.

He said: “I’ve worked hard to learn what customers need, helped with workloads when people were off, and I always ask questions to reduce mistakes and be as productive as I can.”

“I’ll be doing my full container load (FCL) training soon and also learning about air freight. It’s really interesting and will stand me in good stead.”

Beckie Vallance, 20, Geodis

Based in Corby, Northants, Beckie joined Geodis as an apprentice aged 17, having decided that learning on the job would suit her better than sixth form studies.

She completed her International Freight forwarding Specialist apprenticeship through Seetec Outsource in 18 months, just at the start of the first Covid-19 lockdown, and now has a permanent position exporting electrical components to America, Australia, New Zealand and the Far East. She also completes all the hazardous dispatches to countries around the world, and the nature of her role means she has had to spend some time on site during each lockdown.

Speaking about her apprenticeship she said: “For someone who doesn’t want to stay in school or college, an apprenticeship is a really good option.

“You get paid to learn and you come out with a qualification. I was offered a lot of opportunities you wouldn’t get in a college setting.  I was able to do a customs course through BIFA and go on a ports tour.”

A good time to consider a career in freight forwarding or logistics

Carl Hobbis, executive director, British International Freight Association (BIFA) says:

“Now, more than ever, is a good time to consider a career in freight forwarding or logistics.

“We have seen the demand for customs knowledge rocket due to Brexit, and the Freight Forwarding Specialist apprenticeship includes these skills. The reality is that there is not enough customs experience, so the apprenticeship is a great opportunity for young people to learn the processes.

“Furthermore, the pandemic has seen the valuable role the logistics sector plays in ensuring everyday items are available. So much so, that workers in the logistics sector are considered ‘essential’ under the latest national lockdown regulations, proving that the industry is vital and will provide a very interesting long-term career for anyone.”

Find out more about the level 3 International Freight Forwarding Specialist Apprenticeship here.