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A Career in Freight Forwarding

The fortunes of the freight forwarding sector are a barometer of the state of world trade.  A market report compiled by Key Note, showed declining world trade led to a corresponding decline of 23.7%  to £12.08bn in the UK freight forwarding market between 2008 and 2009. 2010 saw a return to growth with the value of UK freight forwarding increasing by 20% to an estimated value of £14.5bn.  Key Note estimates that the UK market for international freight services will increase by 15.7% from £18.71bn in 2011 to £21.69bn in 2015, which is positive news in terms of employment prospects in the sector (www.keynote.co.uk).

A freight forwarder is an intermediary who acts on behalf of importers, exporters or other companies or persons, organising the safe, efficient and cost-effective transportation of goods by road, rail, air and sea.  In some cases, the freight forwarding company itself provides the transportation service.

 

The Skills

  • Organisational skills and good attention to detail

  • Ability to handle pressure and work to tight deadlines

  • IT skills – general office packages and specialist route planning and tracking software

  • Communications skills – written and verbal

  • Numeracy skills

  • Good customer care

  • Problem solving

  • Language skills

  • Flexibility – may need to work shifts to accommodate different time zones

Entry Requirements

There are apprenticeship opportunities in transport-related occupations, so it is worth visiting the Apprenticeship websites to see what is available (there are separate sites for each of the four nations):

A degree is not a prerequisite for a career in freight forwarding, although a degree in logistics, supply chain management, transport planning, business management, economics and other related disciplines can prove advantageous. Employers will also consider a range of degree disciplines, provided the candidate meets the other skills requirements of the job.


Salary and Career Development

Salary levels for freight forwarders vary by market, location and the type and size of the company. For salaried personnel in the early stages of their career, the potential earnings tend to range between £15,000 and £20,000 per annum, while freight forwarders with over three years’ experience can earn between £20,000 and £25,000. Senior professionals with over ten years’ experience can earn over £40,000 a year. Progression is often to the level of senior freight forwarder or senior export administrator and then to export office manager or shipping manager.

Freight forwarding is a specialist profession and there are many opportunities to study for professional qualifications (see contact information for key professional bodies and trade associations supporting this occupational area).

Some larger companies offer graduate training schemes, with the opportunity to learn on the job, gaining experience across various functions of the business, whilst studying for relevant professional qualifications. The level of training support varies widely between companies, so research this area carefully when looking for vacancies.

Career progression is dependent upon individual performance, work experience and the attainment of relevant professional qualifications. In larger, international firms there will be opportunities to gain some overseas experience, which can help to boost career prospects Some opt to gain generalist experience across all freight-related industries and move into general managerial positions, while others chose to specialise in particular areas either by product type or market location. There are a number of self-employed freight forwarders providing a freight/transport and/or customs brokerage consultancy service.


Employers

Companies vary in size and type, from those operating on a national or international basis to smaller, more specialised firms, who deal with particular types of goods or operate within specific geographical areas. 

Typical employers include:

  • Freight forwarding agents - local, national or international
  • Road transport operators
  • Express operators/couriers
  • Airlines
  • Shipping lines
  • Exporters and importers – such as major retailers or manufacturers
  • Physical handling – ports, airlines, warehousing
Most freight is handled by around 3,000 third-party logistics (3PL) firms, with London, the north-west, the midlands, the south-east and Scotland being the main centres in the UK.  The British International Freight Association (www.bifa.org) website includes a list of members, which is useful way to identify potential employers.


Contacts


There are a number of relevant professional bodies and trade associations:

CILT UK


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