All being well, we can expect to see National Skills Academy Logistics opening its doors later next year.
Back in December 2008, my column for Logistics Manager was a difficult one to write as it concerned our, then unsuccessful bid for National Academy status in Bid Round 5. The title of the piece was “The F-word”. In retrospect I was lucky to get away with only using it in a “funding” context rather than its better known one.
I am delighted to say, that in Bid Round 5 in January 2010, we were successful and the National Skills Academy Logistics is now in the middle of a very detailed and challenging business planning phase with a number of very committed employers and officials from the Skills Funding Agency and BIS.
All being well, we can expect to see the business plan accepted early next year with the National Skills Academy Logistics opening its doors later in the year. I say “all being well” because this is being written a week before the government’s spending review announcement and we all know the uncertainty that this brings, although we have had no indications that the programme is at risk.
When we hit the buffers with the bid in 2008, SfL was on the horns of a dilemma. We did not magic a bid out of the air because there was public funding available, our NSAL bid was the culmination of a planned effort to address shortcomings in the training provision infrastructure.
We consulted widely and deeply around the sector and a key issue that was repeated time and time again concerned the quality of provision and particularly its patchy nature around the UK.
That’s why from the start, we have been single-mindedly pursuing a quality-assured network of training provision across the UK, based on a hub and spoke principle so that we can introduce and maintain consistent high quality.
Our dilemma was that the 2008 bid itself generated some good momentum across the sector with both employers and engaged providers and we could not risk that momentum dissipating.
So in the intervening 18 months we worked hard with some committed employers and some visionary training providers to establish regional logistics academies in five English regions. The good news is that they will form a firm foundation for the National Skills Academy Logistics.
Each of the regional academies has a board of employers overseeing their activities. It was heartening to see an article by Richard Brough, managing director of Jenkins Shipping Port Services, who chairs the Logistics Academy Yorkshire and Humberside board in “IFW” recently.
He said: “Our vision for the logistics academy is to supply ‘best in sector’ solutions to skills needs in the logistics industry. This is achieved through a regional network of approved suppliers that have gone through a rigorous quality assurance process.”
I could not have written better myself. The emerging NSAL will offer a national service across England but, will engage with smaller employers through a network in each English region. Crucially this engagement will be overseen by lead employers in each region so this will be a service for employers by employers.
This will enable the academy to gear up to provide exactly what local employers want and provide it with guaranteed high quality levels. This approach should really come into its own as the new local enterprise partnerships start to emerge around England. Each local area will define its key economic priorities – successful delivery of those economic priorities will be dependent on having a logistics workforce trained in the relevant supply chain to serve them – and the logistics academy will deliver the training tailored to meet those demands – job done.
Unusually, this column reads as if it applies to England rather than the home nations. Not so. We look to extend our hub and spoke approach to the three devolved administrations. Our employers demand it but as yet, we have not delivered the hearts and minds of the authorities in those countries.
However as we have shown to date in England, there is a momentum here. It is something that both sector employers and the training provision industry support because it will bring consistently high quality training anywhere that is covered by the academy structure. If you would like to know more about the opportunity, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
It would clearly be better to go with a single academy structure clearly backed by the government in each home nation. However, if the comprehensive spending review in England and the devolved administrations combine to reduce or even remove state involvement then maybe, just maybe we can still make it work without having to use the F-word too much.