Jake Swanson, regional vice president the Americas for DHL Global Forwarding’s Industrial Projects’ division, outlines to AJOT what it takes to attract and retain people in the project sector.

Attracting and retaining talent in freight transportation has been tougher since the COVID 19 pandemic hit. But to grow today’s complicated, far-flung breakbulk transport sector, logistics leaders must aggressively invest capital, time, and training in college graduates with technology skills and problem-solving mindsets.

No easy feat. It has always been a challenge to locate, hire and keep talent in the project logistics sector as the market keeps expanding and outsized freight becomes bigger and more sophisticated. Especially now as seasoned breakbulk specialists retire or look elsewhere, finding new talent and creatively persuading these newcomers this can be a rewarding career has to be a critical focus across the industry.

That was the thrust of the opening remarks delivered at the recent Breakbulk Conference in Houston by Jake Swanson, regional vice president, the Americas for DHL Global Forwarding’s Industrial Projects’ division. “My focus was on people development and the importance of the industry to reach down to the universities to bring (along) and develop the next generation,” he told the American Journal of Transportation (AJOT) in an interview.

Jake Swanson, regional VP, the Americas for DHL Global Forwarding Industrial Projects

DHL’s NextGen IP

The conference, entitled Outlook 2024 — Challenges, Opportunities, and Expanding Role of Project Forwarders, — was an ideal setting for Swanson’s keynote. Houston is home base for DHL Global Forwarding’s innovative 15-month management trainee rotational program called NextGen IP where participants work on three continents in two years.

During that time, says Swanson, who is also based in Houston, trainees have hands-on experience in warehouse operations, air/ocean export operations, air/ocean import operations and sales. Again, the program emphasizes global experience by transferring trainees to any one of the 200-plus countries the company serves. DHL, which describes itself as the world’s largest logistics company, has approximately 700,000 employees.

(A spokeswoman in Santiago, Chile says DHL Global Forwarding has been certified as a “top employer” globally including Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and North America for 2023). Swanson wasn’t lecturing the breakbulk sector of the logistics industry to follow in DHL Global Forwarding’s footsteps. “I just encouraged the industry to invest in our future,” he says. “It was more like an industry challenge – that we all need to work together. But the fact is many, many breakbulk logistics companies attending are already doing the same thing to build leaders for the future.”

Bright Year for Project Logistics in ‘24

The DHL executive sees a bright year for project logistics in 2024 and beyond with an emphasis on regional sourcing in the Americas Region, and with Houston continuing to be a project hub and busy gateway. Specifically, he says semiconductors, technology companies, mining and oil and gas are generating the most activity among nearshoring project sectors.

Essentially, “regional sourcing in project…

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