A long-standing partnership between Think Logistics and Career Ready has proved a winning combination in addressing the industry’s core recruitment problems.

Think Logistics works to make the logistics, transport and supply chain profession an attractive career of choice for young people. In tandem with leading industry bodies and over 40 logistics companies, it promotes the sector to 11-18-year-olds through workshops, mentoring, internships, work placements and support.

From its inception in 2013, when Abbey Logistics CEO Steve Granite visited his old inner-city school in Liverpool to raise awareness of the industry, to becoming the UK’s largest talent development initiative for the logistics sector, partnership has been at the core of its success. Which is why the initiative, led by education and social mobility charity Career Ready, successfully scooped the Partnership Award for the second time in 2020.

It all started when Granite, who rose through the ranks from apprentice at Abbey Logistics to CEO at the Bootle-based tanker business, discovered the shocking lack of knowledge of the sector and its opportunities among young people. As the industry wasn’t doing much to promote itself, he created Think Logistics, an organisation that could be supported by the industry and make a tangible difference to awareness.

Think Logistics highlighted to the sector the skills shortage it faced, not just in terms of HGV driving positions, but also planners, fitters, operations and support staff, and called on companies to form a partnership to tell young people about the fantastic and rewarding career opportunities available.

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To expand the initiative, Granite quickly joined forces with education and social mobility charity Career Ready, which provided the links into schools and colleges and helped build the framework for what Think Logistics would become.

In joining Career Ready, Think Logistics gained access to more than 400 schools and colleges across the UK and has become the ‘go-to’ organisation for any logistics or transport firm that wants to engage with young people.

To date, it has impacted on more than 7,000 of them via the Career Ready programmes and Think Logistics workshops, with a key objective being to improve the diversity of the logistics workforce by recruiting more female, black and minority ethnic workers.

In 2018/19 (the year the awards submission was based on) 1,400 young people attended Think Logistics workshops, while more than 60 volunteers from logistics firms mentored students, the industry provided over 50 paid internships, and 16 Career Ready schools and colleges had a logistics focus.

Key relationships

As well as working with logistics operators in the UK, Think Logistics has established key relationships with organisations such as Logistics UK, the RHA, the CILT and BIFA. Its success is based on effective business partnerships that generate sponsorship and the provision of volunteers for mentoring, workshops, work placements and internships.

Current sponsors include Logistics UK, the RHA, Microlise, Volvo Trucks, DAF Trucks, the National Logistics Academy, CEVA Logistics and PD Ports.

Sponsorship has enabled it to engage with more people in the last eight years and to raise awareness of careers in an industry often viewed as just trucks and sheds.

Thanks to the support of its industry partners, Think Logistics has been given free exhibition space at logistics events including Multimodal and the IMHX. Its representatives play a key role at these events by delivering skills workshops, presentations and a variety of panel discussions, all focused on recruitment and development.

Among other things, Think Logistics and Career Ready have played a leading role in helping to develop a careers focus day at Multimodal. As a result, in 2019 50 Career Ready students visited the show, attended seminars and met exhibitors.

Think Logistics Delivery Group meetings are held every quarter. These attract 20-30 attendees and provide a networking opportunity for supporters to discuss what they have been doing with Think Logistics, what’s worked, and what could be done better.

The meetings are relaxed and informal and promote openness and collaboration. This has a direct impact on the scheme’s activities, as changes can be made based on real feedback from supporters who are in schools, mentoring students or providing work placements.

The meetings also bring together direct and indirect competitors, who are working together to raise the profile of the logistics industry with young people, promoting volunteering opportunities for their staff and helping to develop new talent pipelines.

Held at different supporters’ premises each time, they often include apprentices or younger team members from the host company giving presentations on what they do, what they’ve learnt, and often providing blunt feedback on what could be done better.

Demand from schools and colleges for Think Logistics workshops is growing. The feedback from students is very positive, with 95% saying they know more about the logistics industry as a result of attending a workshop and 73% suggesting they are more likely to consider a career in logistics.

Employers also reap the benefits, with many that provided internships or apprenticeships offering permanent roles to the students involved, including Abbey Logistics, PD Ports, Virgin Trains, Network Rail, DHL and Manpower. In fact 72% of employers say that given the opportunity, they would hire their Career Ready intern.

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During 2019, Think Logistics secured funding from the DfT, which was used in part to create a series of short films showcasing the sector and showing young people in new roles in the industry.

Various companies came together to support the production schedule for these films, including DHL, Abbey Logistics, Arla Foods, Bis Henderson, Pladis, Kuehne + Nagel, Wincanton, Novus Trust, PD Ports, Virgin Trains, Travis Perkins and Morrisons.

Commenting on the project, Think Logistics founder Steve Granite said: “This is an opportunity for companies of all sizes to use these films free of charge to raise awareness of the sector and directly benefit from increasing the size of their talent pool for opportunities in their businesses.”

The videos can be downloaded from

Force for good

Think Logistics has had a material impact on the way young people think about logistics.It has achieved this through the support, commitment and dedication of its partners, and working together to solve the shared challenge of securing new, young talent to address a growing skills shortage.

Through the support of its partners providing work placements, apprenticeships and workshops, it continues to demonstrate that with the right support and guidance, young people can develop long, interesting and rewarding careers in the logistics profession.

MT talks to Ian Nichol as he prepares to hand over the reins

Ian Nichol

MT recently caught up with Ian Nichol, head of the Think Logistics initiative at charity Career Ready, on the day before his retirement from a long career in the education sector.

Originally from a teaching background, Nichol worked at Career Ready for 10 years and on Think Logistics for seven years, helping the scheme to grow from strength to strength.

Nichol has handed over at Think Logistics to Bethany Windsor from the Novus Trust, which already works with young people offering degrees in supply chain and logistics. This expertise, combined with Career Ready’s well-established links with schools and sixth-form colleges, offers a complete pathway for youngsters from school through to university, should they wish to follow it.

MT: How has Think Logistics fared during the pandemic?

IN: “We’ve piloted an online version of the Think Logistics workshop because we’ve not been able to visit schools and colleges, and it’s gone down really well. Covid-19 has also changed the narrative with young people, teachers and careers leads because logistics has gained such a high profile in the past year. It’s an essential industry staffed by key workers and has played a huge role in supporting, for example, Nightingale hospitals, the rollout of vaccines, and keeping supermarket shelves stocked. We are able to say to young people ‘You can work in an essential sector and be a key worker’, and it’s been a really strong message.”

MT: What has been the biggest eye-opener for you in the logistics sector?

IN: “I think the most surprising thing I learned is just what a key sector it really is. Before meeting Steve Granite in 2013, I was probably part of the ‘trucks and sheds’ thinking stereotype. But now I know of the fantastic careers on offer, which as part of my role I have been shouting from the rooftops about to engage with young people. There aren’t just two jobs on offer – there’s a whole range to choose from.

“Technology is the real game-changer for the sector, I believe. For young people, the world they live in is all about technology; it’s a digital world. Well so is logistics, and they can use this skill and passion within the sector.”

MT: How did it feel to win the MT Partnership Award for the second time?

IN: “I was elated and very proud. When we won the award in 2016, it was a key achievement for us at that time, but to win again four years later was recognition from the industry that we had moved to a whole new level in terms of our engagement and impact.

“We were absolutely delighted because it reaffirmed that we’re doing the right thing, that we’re having an impact and that we’ve got a platform for future success.”