Monday 24th Oct 2016 - Logistics Manager

Skills for global supply chains

China now has 2,600 colleges offering logistics qualifications

You may remember me talking in the autumn, following a visit by a British Council sponsored delegation to China, about the genesis of what we believe will be a fruitful relationship between the UK and China in developing cooperation around training and skills in the logistics sectors of both countries.

As spring finally arrived in the UK, so too did 24 delegates from the China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing, College and University Principals and British Council China. This was a reciprocal visit to a delegation led by SfL to China in October.

They were taken on a journey to show how the government and UK industry invest in skills building from the identification of employers’ skills needs through development of National Occupational Standards, qualifications, the development and delivery of apprenticeships and Foundation Degrees and how the learners/graduates are embedded in the companies concerned.

They heard about the Professional Development Stairway and the options offered by apprenticeships, diplomas and foundation degrees. The programme was balanced between technical workshops with the Universities of Derby and Coventry and site visits to DHL, TNT, Ceva and Unipart to see it in practice.

China sees the UK as a cutting-edge thought leader in the field of technical and vocational education and training (TVET). This is an extremely positive message for our logistics sector and, along with the UK’s ascent up the global logistics performance leagues, is a validation of the investment that the UK is making in this area.

In 2003, the Chinese Government decided that logistics was proving a brake on the country’s economic growth (what might it have been without that “constraint” I hear you say). So the Chinese system kicked into gear such that there are now 2,600 junior colleges, secondary colleges and universities offering logistics qualifications with approaching three million current students.

But they haven’t got the mix right and they don’t yet have the teachers with the right mix of knowledge and logistics experience. So enter the Brits…

A tri-partite agreement has been signed between SfL, CFLP and the British Council to update China’s occupational standards, carry out a pilot of apprenticeships and train some Chinese teachers in the UK. This will pave the way for regular exchanges of both students and employees between the two countries as the logistics curricula in the two countries are aligned.

Many large UK organisations are already in China and countless businesses have supply chains that link into the country, which increases the call for global skills. We can learn from the areas where China excels, to increase the skills levels of our students and create a more competitive workforce.

The ability to benchmark the UK’s TVET system against China’s, will allow education institutions and businesses in the UK and China to easily appraise the skill level of students and skilled workers from both countries. This means greater student and employee mobility. It will also encourage a more efficient allocation of human resources and strengthen the workforces of both countries.

In China, we will get an opportunity to see how these frameworks established in the UK work on a much larger scale. As China progresses to become the world’s largest economy it is experiencing a shift from exports and foreign investment to domestic consumer spending as the driver for growth. With higher levels of consumer spending, logistics is a vital component in ensuring that growth continues – one in every five dollars of China’s GDP was spent on transporting goods (worth a total of 177 trillion yuan in 2012). This means getting smarter at logistics and supply chain.

As the Chinese domestic market opens up to foreign competition (starting with the domestic express parcels market) then opportunities open up for UK companies and this agreement places the UK in a very strong position to take advantage of that.

The CFLP delegation’s visit heralds a step forward in the developing partnership between the UK and China. In discussion with our Chinese colleagues we have identified UK and China as two great countries that find themselves at opposite ends of some key global supply chains. Nailing down the key logistics skills throughout those supply chains is a major challenge with some major potential rewards. Watch this space.