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Employers across the North-east are coming together to help tackle a skill shortage in the region’s logistics industry.

Business leaders have warned a lack of understanding of what the sector fully involves is contributing to the growing skills gap.

Nationally the sector needs to recruit approximately 450,000 new workers in the next five years (with 1.2m workers needed between 2012 and 2020), yet the industry is among those to recruit the lowest number of school leavers, second only to agriculture.

Now, to help combat the shortfall, Stockton Riverside College is joining forces with business leaders from across the region in a drive to inspire more young people to consider a future career in the industry.

“Logistics is a key priority for the Tees Valley, yet there seems to be a general lack of knowledge of what the sector fully entails,” said Michelle Elliott, the College’s Director of Business Development.

To help engage upcoming talent, the College, in conjunction with NETA Training Trust, Think Logistics and national charity, Career Ready, is launching a Logistics Academy, a scheme offering students an introduction to the sector.

Career Ready links schools and colleges with employers to open up the world of work to young people, offering a programme of business engagement that includes industry-focused masterclasses, mentoring and internship opportunities, running alongside their full time courses. Think Logistics is an employer led project, supported by the Edge Foundation that focuses on raising young people’s awareness of the logistics industry.

Among those to have backed Stockton Riverside College’s logistics programme is PD Ports’ logistics division, PD Portcentric Logistics.

Director Jim French, who is also national chairman of the Road Haulage Association, said: “I’ve talked to young people of school leaving age and there’s a definite lack of awareness of what the logistics industry is about. Similarly, to my mind, there’s a lack of awareness amongst school teachers and parents as well.”

He said: “Logistics is a key part of all industries as it is about the movement and storage of products and people. Its purpose is to add value to a product or person by its location.”

Of the Academy he said: “This is a great opportunity to help raise awareness and we are only scratching the surface. There are currently 2.2m people employed in logistics in this country, that is one in 12 of UK workers, yet we face a great difficulty in attracting young people in to the industry.” Of the current workforce he said just 9% are under 25 and 45% are over 45.

Stockton Riverside College’s Director of Business Development, Ms Elliott, said: “We have spoken to lots of employers who struggle to find staff to train up for the roles available. By working directly with local employers, we aim to identify the sector’s needs and respond accordingly.”

Frank Ramsay, Chief Executive of NETA, said: “The logistics sector plays a hugely important role in all industries. It is one of the key areas of the Tees Valley’s LEP. The installation of a logistics academy is a major step forward in raising the awareness of the industry to young people.”

College principal, Phil Cook, added: “As a college we are here to meet the needs of the local community and employers. That means looking at the area’s skills shortages and seeing what we can do to help address them, matching skills to the industries’ needs and being responsible for upskilling the local workforce.”

Stockton Riverside College is holding a Logistics Academy breakfast meeting on Friday September 4, for businesses interested in finding out more. For details, or to book a place, call the College’s Pre-employment & Skills Manager, Joanne Scott, on 01642 865528.

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