Industry must act on education

It’s time the Australian Logistics industry got more serious about supporting scholarships for bright students, according to Sydney University’s Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies Director Professor David Hensher.

Speaking exclusively with Logistics Magazine, Professor Hensher, who founded the Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies (ITLS) 20 years ago, says partnerships between institutions such as his own and industry will produce the next generation of smart, committed leaders.

He calls for local companies to be more active in attracting such students.

“Our vision is to contribute to and promote excellence in research, scholarship and teaching in the Transport, Logistics and supply chain fields,” Hensher says, “but to also use our framework to work more closely with and remain relevant to industry.”

“We’ve actually achieved this vision through working collaboratively with many organizations around the world who recognize that the success of what we do is very much dependent on partnerships that we form with industry through internship programs, consultancy and other forms of advice.”

“Now that people are increasingly entering Logistics through a formal university education, we’ve got to convince Australian industry that the new generation will be more strategic and move their businesses ahead in the current dynamic and global environment,” he says.

An economist by training, Professor David Hensher’s 30-year career in transport and logistics has focused on strategy and policy in both freight distribution and passenger logistics.

With over 250 current post graduate students and a staff of 30 in the Faculty of Economics and Business at the University of Sydney, ITLS is regarded as one of the most important Australian institutions in the field.

Recognised world-wide for its reputation in transportation logistics learning and research, ITLS

was made a national centre of excellence in Australia through the Federal government’s Key Centres Program in 1995.

“We have students from 33 countries at the moment, attracting those who are switching careers in to this industry, along with a high proportion of students working in the industry, who are aiming to further their careers in manufacturing, retail and distribution companies,” Professor Hensher says.

“Many of our graduates have become highly successful individuals, particularly in the fields of intermodal freight, maritime, aviation and tourism, all clearly relevant to the logistics task.”

According to Professor Hensher, Australia still lacks vision in terms of positioning logistics and supply chain within the broader context of good business, in both public and private sectors.

“The vast majority of organisations basically want their people to have skills that are immediately relevant to their roles,” he says. “Many people in logistics have come up from the floor, and while they’ve clearly done very well, they often view education as a threat.”

On the other side of the coin, Hensher sees evidence that practitioners within logistics organisations have a narrow outlook on what business opportunities and capabilities might be.

“I think many practitioners feel they know enough by simply working in an organisation, but I believe that’s a myopic attitude, especially given logistics and supply chain management has really become the new general management, along side the CEO,” Hensher observes.

“We don’t deny the importance of knowing the nuts and bolts and operational aspects of the business, but first and foremost, the ITLS focuses on the strategic vision of logistics and supply chain in a business context.”

“We like to think that we graduate people who are thinkers and doers rather than just people who may have learned how to run a bit of software or know some of the operational aspects of their own roles.”

“Many of our ITLS graduates have been employed by medium to large sized organizations in Australia and the subsequent feedback has proven how useful they are in growing the business.”

A recent ITLS initiative reflecting this industry-focused approach is an investment in solution provider Mid-Comp International’s Odyssey Software for training purposes.

“The Odyssey Learning Initiative recognizes that many of our graduates need to be exposed to integrated commercial planning packages, such as SAP and Odyssey,” Professor Hensher explains.

“Odyssey enables students to develop an understanding of how all the elements of the value chain fit together and actually monitor and audit the performance of an enterprise with a focus on the logistics task,” he says.

“As a teaching tool, Odyssey brings together all of the various roles performed in an organisation and enables students to establish and analyse key performance indicators relating to finance, customer service and operations.”

“Were hopeful in the long term that through Odyssey students will learn to appreciate the way all the parts fit together in running a good business.”

“Australian companies these days can’t afford to be players outside the global market and at the end of the day, Transport and Logistics companies want to make money,” Professor Hensher says. “We believe the students we deliver, many of whom have overseas experience, can give Australian organizations a competitive edge.”

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