So far, in the first three months of 2010, we at Skills for Logistics have had three very welcome pieces of good news. First of all, at the beginning of March we received the very welcome confirmation from the secretary of state for business innovation and skills that Skills for Logistics had been awarded a new licence to practice as a Sector Skills Council.
This was great news, not only because it represents a great vote of confidence from governments in Westminster, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast and employers but because it enables us to stride forward in our programme of reforming the supply chain for skills in the sector.
We have worked hard over the past few years to carry out essential remedial work for both the qualification infrastructure (to make it more agile and relevant) and the physical delivery infrastructure (to make it both consistent and of guaranteed high quality). While much of that work has been invisible to customers of skills development, it has provided us with a great springboard to move forward and it would have been frustrating in the extreme to have not been allowed to continue.
I would like to go on record publicly and thank the 117 employers who formally expressed support for us during the relicensing process. This was more support than was expressed for 23 of the other 24 SSCs which speaks volumes. I’d also like to thank the fifty employers and stakeholders who gave up their time to be interviewed by the National Audit Office during our inspection last year. My special thanks go to the trade associations and professional institutes who showed that we have a single co-ordinated sector-wide approach to skills development, which is by no means always the case in some other sectors.
The middle of March then saw the second piece of good news as we were informed that our bid for a National Skills Academy for Logistics had been successful. Bidding for these academies is always highly competitive. This was the fifth bidding round and we had submitted a bid in the fourth round which was unsuccessful.
Since that unsuccessful bid, we have been working to establish a network of regional skills hubs and spokes. That network currently has regional logistics academies in six English regions with a more than 70 providers signed up to provide a guaranteed high quality training provision.
The successful bid will mean that, from 2011, subject to the approval of a detailed business plan, the logistics sector will have a physical delivery network ensuring that the same high quality training, qualifications and programmes will be available consistently across England. The National Skills Academy is a Westminster policy initiative so funding is limited to England but, as readers of this column are only too aware, the demands for relevance and consistency are UK-wide so we will be developing skills hubs in each of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, hopefully with the blessing of those administrations.
This really exciting initiative which will radically change and improve the way skills are developed across the logistics sector is being led by Unipart and the Port of Tilbury and will be fully supported by the major 3PLs. This will at last fulfil my dream of making quality training delivery accessible to all sizes and types of companies across the logistics sector.
The third piece of news may seem less significant when lined up against the first two. In fact we delayed announcing it as it coincided with the announcement of our relicensing and we decided against burying good news – to coin a phrase.
We have spent some years addressing another part of the deficient skills infrastructure – that of careers advice and guidance to school and college leavers. We are grateful to the trustees of the former Road Haulage and Distribution Council who decreed that their funds should be focused on addressing the issue in a way that would be meaningful to people of that age rather than something that the archetypal grey man in a grey suit would think.
This has culminated in the launch of the Delivering Your Future web site which I urge you to visit, even if your career is already set. The address is: www.deliveringyourfuture.co.uk.
In many ways this is the missing piece. We have been relicensed and had a big endorsement of the remedial work we are doing on the qualifications, programmes and delivery infrastructures for the logistics sector. We have successfully gained National Skills Academy status for the sector so we can make high quality training available to all rather than just those working for the large employers and now we are also starting to drive young people in the direction of logistics as a worthwhile career.
Our work goes on but as ever we need the engaged support of employers across the sector.