Saturday 22nd Oct 2016 - Logistics Manager

Mick Jackson: A sign of intelligence life?

21956Trained workers can be on average 23 per cent higher in productivity.

As a Sector Skills Council, one of the key remits of Skills for Logistics is to provide authoritative labour market intelligence on and for the logistics sector.

We pride ourselves on being an intelligence-led organisation. This presents a number of challenges. What data is available? How trustworthy is the data? More difficult – how meaningful is the data? More difficult still – how useful is it and to whom?

Since December 2009, we have been producing an annual Sector Skills Assessment for the logistics sector. Granted it’s not the title that potential best-sellers are made of, but it does represent a robust and comprehensive guide to skills in logistics.

Our first in 2009 was independently assessed and ranked as one of the best in the Sector Skills Network. The 2010/11 edition just published builds on that success and analyses:

– What drives skills demand
– Current skills needs
– Anticipating what lies ahead
– Regional variations
– Skills priorities

Will they be of use to anybody? Well, unsurprisingly I think they should. If you are an individual who works in the sector – or if you represent those who do, you should be interested in the “Sector strategies for competitive advantage” section or perhaps the “Steps being taken to move the skills position upmarket”.

Employers should be interested in discovering what the research says about the returns on training investment. We know that times are tight and we also know that in reality one of the first things that is usually cut from operating budgets is training. What our SSA highlights is the very real, and very quantifiable benefits that can result from training your staff. The evidence shows that it’s neither simply a good thing, nor just a nice thing to upskill your workforce. Instead, the economic literature shows that training your staff delivers significant economic pay-off. The benefit can and does find its way to the bottom line.

Policy makers need to be aware of the importance of our sector – a theme familiar to regular readers of this column. They need to be aware of how pivotal the logistics sector is to the functioning of the economy. Some time ago, Martin Christopher talked about competition being more likely to be between supply chains rather than brands.

The stakes have raised even beyond that, as Uri Dadush, the World Bank’s trade director, has said: “As a main driver of competitiveness, logistics can make you or break you as a country in today’s globalised world.”

So, as we’ve really already suspected, it is countries (or economies) that will suffer if we get our positioning wrong in supply chain terms.

The World Bank has found that the UK’s logistics sector is the 8th most competitive and the World Economic Forum states it is 13th. However, the extent to which UK logistics employees are trained is particularly weak compared to our international competitors.

The UK is ranked 25th globally on the extent of staff training in logistics. A significant link has been found between a skilled workforce and competitive performance. Trained workers can be on average 23 per cent higher in productivity, than untrained workers. How much higher could the UK be if we addressed our relative training shortfall? How many of the 24 countries above us can break us?

Policy makers should therefore carefully consider the work we have done on international comparison. This work will help them to reflect on the logistics sector’s strengths, as well as our weaknesses.

They need to know where they can act to support employers and learners. These reports should be considered essential reading for policy makers who work on skills and in transport anywhere in the UK.

I recommend the SSA to you, it is free to access via our web site

All you need to do is register your details and then you can access all of our research, and registration takes no more than one minute.

On our web site you’ll find our full UK Report, as well as a summary UK document. We have also produced a national report for each country in the UK. In these national reports you’ll find much more detail about the geographical and regional variations in our sector.

As we disseminate this SSA, we are carrying out more research for next year’s publication. We are always happy to work with individual employers, representative organisations and stakeholders, and would welcome any approach.

We are particularly interested in producing case studies with employers and collaborative research projects with other organisations in this area.

So back to the most difficult question – is it useful? I think it is a major step forward but you tell me – is there intelligence life out there?