In 2007/08, publication by the UK government of World Class Skills heralded a new era for skills development as we pursue a place in the upper quartile of developed nations in skills terms by 2020. Frommemory, the 2007 start point was a position of something like 19 out of 23OECDcountries, so the challenges are clear.
Somewhat unusually (and thankfully), the broad direction seems to have the full support of at least bothmainUKparties, which underlines its robustness as well as its necessity. Arguably, the most sensible part of the policy is to place employers at the centre of the planned change, with Sector Skills Councils (SSCs) established precisely to articulate employer demands for skills to allow the incredibly expensive and slow moving training supply chain to be moved from supply led to demand driven.
We can all quote examples, such as media studies and leisure centremanagement, where supply way exceeds, and often completely misjudges, demand so the government is to be applauded for attempting to turn this massive “oil tanker” around by giving it a very clear set of employerbased directions.
Placing employers at the centre of skills policy means considerably building the role of Skills for Logistics (SfL) and the 24 other SSCs. As part of this general “raising of the bar”, responsibility for regulating SSCs moved, in April 2008 from the Sector Skills Development Agency to the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES).
Assuming, dear reader, that you are still awake, I am now moving on to the important bit as far aswe are concerned. The raising of the bar is being practised through the relicensing of all 25 SSCs by the end of 2009. The inspection regime underpinning this task has been outsourced by UKCES to the National Audit Office.
All SSC CEOs had to submit an Expression of Interest in August 2008 indicating when they would prefer to go through the process. We chose March 2009 as our start point as it coincides with the culmination of our planning process and we have always seen our 2009-2012 Business Plan as the core of our relicensing submission because it sets out what we are going to deliver for the sector. If we are worth relicensing, it has to be on the basis of that plan, not an artificially concocted relicensing submission.
We consulted widely on that plan and my thanks go out to the 150 or so organisations that responded in some detail to that consultation, allowing us to tailor the plan to meet employer demands evenmore closely.
Our relicensing process started at the beginning of April and runs through till the end of August but the particularly important period is May and June when the National Audit Office and UKCES will be looking for evidence of strong support for SfL fromemployers across the sector.
We have been working hard at SfL over the past few years to reform both the qualifications and training supply infrastructures and we are starting now to see the fruits of our labourwith take up of logistics qualifications showing a 78 per cent increase year-on-year in 2008 and apprenticeships showing a 25 per cent increase over the same period.We have established regional logistics academies in six English regions in preparation for a national network of quality assured training provision.
If you are a regular reader of this column you will have a good sense of what we are doing for the logistics sector. Right now, the sector needs its Sector Skills Council and we need your support to continue delivering our mission to enable employers in the logistics sector to gain competitive advantage by developing workforce skills.