In 1995, Abbey Logistics approached All Saints secondary school in Kirkby looking for talent to fill two management trainee vacancies. The young men it chose, Steve Granite and Paul Laverick, have grown up to become the current MD and commercial manager at the Merseyside company.

The structured training, which provided an all-round understanding of the Abbey operation, allowed Granite to progress from trainee accountant to his current role, while Laverick developed his business skills over the years.

Since then, several ex-All Saints pupils have been taken on by the firm. Not content to rest on its laurels, Abbey is now preparing the next generation of local youngsters to become future bosses at the firm via a business mentoring programme, with help from the Knowsley Chamber of Commerce.

The best young talent

Granite said: “All Saints [finds] the best young talent and pushes it our way. It has helped raise awareness of the career opportunities in the industry.”

About 60 pupils in years 12 and 13 expressed an interest in the scheme. Of these, eight were invited to Abbey and interviewed by Granite, before giving a 15-minute presentation to management.

Luke Whitehill, 19, (pictured, left) and Paul Cunningham, 18 (pictured, right), emerged victorious after the gruelling interview and got the places. Cunningham, a final year student at All Saints, spends his school holidays doing work experience with the company and hopes to take up a position on the programme after finishing his studies.

Top grades

Whitehill, meanwhile, joined the scheme in July 2012 after achieving top A-level grades in business, information and communications technology (ICT) and finance.

During the programme, he will have the opportunity to experience life in different areas of the business, such as transport planning, credit control, accounts and payroll.

Whitehill said: “This programme provides an incentive to do well in your exams, as it offers the chance of a good career. The A-levels I studied were a good preparation for what I’ve been doing at Abbey. But business theory taught in school is different from business practice in real life.”

Since he joined last July, Whitehill has been working closely with financial controller Paul Jamieson.

The programme has also included visits to the firm’s operating centres, as well as the vehicle maintenance workshop at the local Daf dealership.

Whitehill has also been on deliveries with drivers and learnt how to manage company fuel cards. He said: “Working in the traffic office has given me a better understanding of customers’ needs, [while] seeing the tanks being cleaned in the wash bays has given me an insight into the hard work that goes on in the yard.”

He has also worked on Abbey’s project to set up a driver training school in Hull, which offers CPC, ADR and tanker training, and put together a business plan for the board to consider.

“I looked at other businesses operating in this field and asked: what is the competition charging?” he explained. “It’s been a useful experience.”

As with Granite, the firm provides Whitehill with financial help and gives him the opportunity to attend college in Liverpool to study for his accountancy qualifications. In an era of crippling tuition fees, this sort of scheme makes sense.

“I wanted to go to university initially but tuition fees put me off,” explained Whitehill. “I’ve always been interested in business, and want to develop as far as I can in a company, so this is an excellent opportunity.”

Eye opener

Whitehill added: “I only knew a little bit about the industry, but I’m finding it interesting.”

Granite said: “It’s easier for a firm such as Abbey to mould people who have come straight from school and educate them in its way of business.”

He said the firm could eventually replicate the scheme at its other main depots in Hull and London. He said: “We will develop the programme. It offers talented young people such as Luke and Paul the opportunity to have an exciting management career in the road transport industry.”