Operators have been urged to get involved in the Think Logistics initiative to raise awareness among school children and college students of the careers available in road transport.

Think Logistics, led by Abbey Logistics MD Steve Granite, has developed an off-the-shelf package of materials that any operator can use as the basis of a half day presentation to students. While this can lead on to site visits and ultimately recruitment of school leavers the fundamental aim is to raise awareness among young people of the range of job opportunities offered by the logistics industry.

A meeting of the Think Logistics steering group held at the Stobart Training Academy in Widnes, Lancs on 17 January heard that many employers were now signed up and had either held sessions or where planning them early in 2014. These range from hauliers such as steering group member Matthew Kibble to supermarket group Morrisons.

Ian Nichol, regional manager for the North West at Career Academies UK, reported that as well as steering group members Bibby, Downton, Rhys Davies and Caterpillar a number of other operators had come onboard in recent months, including Hargreaves, Knights of Old, Stobart and Fortec. He added that Rhys Davies was planning to present a “lite” version of Think Logistics at a primary school, and it would be “interesting to see how that goes”. A number of other operators including Asda, AKW, Bullet Express and Framptons had also expressed an interest.

Louise Christie, implementation specialist with Skills for Logistics (SfL), said that engaging with schools was one of SfL’s top priorities as school leavers were seen as a significant talent pool for filling the looming skills gap in logistics. SfL had secured funding to create a number of pilot Local Logistics Community Networks around logistics “hotspots” including Doncaster, Daventry, Glasgow and Cardiff. The skills council has also launched the Made in China challenge, where teams of school children compete to prepare a proposal to ship MP3 players from China to the UK. Successful Made in China sessions had also been held with two groups of people not in education, employment or training (Neets) in Leeds.

Nichol added that schools regulator Ofsted was putting pressure on schools and colleges to work more with closely with employers, so transport firms were pushing at an open door. “Schools need more engagement with employers – so run a Think Logistics workshop,” he urged.

Neil Caldwell, north west regional officer for the Chartered Institute of Logistic s and Transport (UK), said employers often struggled to find schools willing to take part in such events.

Nichol said that Career Academies can help here, as it specialises in bringing employers and schools together to improve the ‘employability’ skills of young people. “The landscape is changing,” he said. “There is growing demand in schools to engage with employers.”