A Bay of Connections industry group is taking a looming shortage of heavy vehicle drivers into its own hands, working with Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology around potential cadetships to lure younger people into the industry.

The Freight Logistics Action Group (FLAG) has tasked its members to look for potential solutions to address the increasing demand for heavy vehicle drivers in the region.

Toi Ohomai runs a 19-week, Level 3, block course in Tauranga offering a New Zealand Certificate in Commercial Road Transport, Heavy Vehicle Operator, with the average age of a student on the course 45.

Adrian Bowen, group manager – road transport and warehousing at Toi Ohomai, said the biggest barrier to attracting young people was the driver licensing laws.

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"This is a challenge due to the fact that when school leavers do not have a full car licence, for the mandatory period, it prevents them from progressing to a class 2 qualification."

He said due to the time it can take students to get the various stages of their car licence it becomes a bigger challenge for the Road Transport Industry to take young people on, if they haven't started the process of getting their class 1 learners licence when they turn 16.

Bowen said it was vital to work with the industry and schools to establish how driver training and a cadetship will work for all parties.

"We now have a greater understanding of the different requirements the industry has and may need to change how we deliver the courses. We may have to change the structure of the programme and deliver it in bite size chunks, over the term of the cadetship."

The institute offers schools a Year 12, level 2 course in Logistics and Distribution, but Bowen said one of the hurdles was that there was nothing offered currently for someone wanting to follow a pathway into the road transport and logistics industry, especially in Year 13, so this is where a cadetship could start to be delivered and support a pathway into the industry.

Bowen said the cadetship programme would most likely be delivered in three phases – introductory skills, industry skills and entry level operator skills.

He said one of the challenges was selling the industry and promoting its educational pathways to school students.

The initiative has been welcomed by Mount Maunganui-based TranzLiquid, which has 50 drivers on staff and a nationwide service.

"Industry has to step up and be prepared to follow through and have belief in driver training. We have a responsibility to train them and can't have the attitude that it's someone else's job," said TranzLiquid managing director Greg Pert.

Greg and son Gareth, who are both FLAG members, said it was imperative to get young people into the industry.

"Freight transport is the lifeblood of the New Zealand economy. If you can't get goods to market where is the country's wealth going to come from?" Greg said.

Greg agrees it is imperative students leave school with the right skills.

"My one piece of advice is to leave school with your full licence. It doesn't matter if it's the only skill you've got, if you have the right attitude you'll make it."

Gareth said with the right calibre of training, drivers can learn quickly and learn all aspects of the job.

'We see it as an apprenticeship. It's all about setting values and attitude built by your business.

"After 18 months, with a class 5 licence you're earning good money quite quickly."

The Bay of Connections is the regional growth strategy for the wider Bay of Plenty with a vision of creating a prosperous region supported by sustainable sectors