Picture a one-sided tug of war in an Anne Arundel Community College parking lot: At one end of the rope is a group of students, digging heels against the asphalt to gain traction. The other end is tied to a delivery truck set in neutral, its 14,000 pounds making it a formidable challenger.
The community college is primed for the return this week of the AACC Truck Pull, which began last year as one of the more intriguing spectacles on the sprawling Arnold campus.
Hosted by the college's Transportation, Logistics and Supply Chain Management Program, the event, scheduled for Thursday, involves teams of students, faculty and community leaders pulling delivery trucks and racing for the best time on a closed course.
Last year, some teams pulled trucks the length of a basketball court in under a minute.
In addition to the workout and the campus spectacle, the truck pull also serves as a recruiting tool of sorts. Local transportation, logistics and supply chain companies set up booths and displays that offer information about their respective companies, and officials say the event gives students an up-close look at the transportation industry and exposes them to employment opportunities.
Kipp Snow, instructional specialist for business management and entrepreneurial studies at Anne Arundel Community College, said he came up with the idea as a way to gain attention for the program.
Last year, the event drew about 150 participants and about a dozen companies. This year, AACC officials said, the number of companies, associations and educational groups taking part has doubled.
This year's pull comes as local transportation companies are seeing encouraging signs of growth. Yet students still say that finding employment right out of college is often as difficult as moving a several-ton truck.
"Recent reports state that some students are finding it difficult to find jobs after earning certain college degrees," Snow said. "Because transportation is in all facets of business and industry, there are many opportunities for employment, many of which are well-paying jobs. This is an industry that students should explore and should consider for employment, as there are many opportunities available.
"Economically, local transportation- and logistics-based companies do see growth and encouraging signs. This can be attributed to the increase in general consumer spending and the growth of the economy since the economic downturn in 2008," Snow said.
He noted that Baltimore is among the East Coast ports ready to accommodate the large ships expected to travel to the East Coast through the expanded Panama Canal in 2015.
"There will be a need for more jobs to meet the increased freight demand," he said.
That's the economic force pulling people to the truck pull; but there's a physical lure as well.
The event involves teams of five members competing in various categories — student, faculty, community and college club and organization. In the student category, members of the team with the fastest time each receive a $100 voucher toward a transportation course. Second-place finishers receive book vouchers toward a transportation course.
This year, in an effort to get students more connected with the businesses, AACC has instituted a competition called the Passport Game, in which students visit the booths with a document similar to a passport and participate in an activity. Students then get the documents stamped by the company, and upon participating in activities at each booth, students can turn in their documents for a prize.
Snow said some companies will advertise current job openings.
"It will provide students with the understanding of the various types of career positions available, including office positions, analytical, material movers, process agents and procurement officers," he said. "The educational information will allow students to see what options are available, from college certificates, associate of applied science degrees and articulation agreements to baccalaureate degrees to apply for these jobs."
Snow said he expects that the number of participants will double from last year because local high schools that work with the community college under a transportation-themed curriculum are sending participants to this year's event.
The second Anne Arundel Community College Truck Pull will be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday, April 4, on parking lot C at the campus in Arnold. Spectators are welcome. For details, contact Kipp Snow at 410-777-2923 or via email, firstname.lastname@example.org.