At the time of writing we are in another period of great uncertainty. Post-election we have politicians negotiating deals on working together for the greater good of the UK. We have Euro-zone politicians attempting to shore up one of the world’s top four currencies from a southern Med generated collapse and we have the responsible parts of the world’s finance system working against another potential meltdown.
Stability seems to be the key word on everybody’s lips. Stability of government, stability of the finance system, stability of markets and, in the case of Greece, stability of just about everything.
However, another “ility” that needs adding is “credibility”. The ever-tortuous lengths that the politicians went to during the election campaign to avoid mentioning the inevitable dramatic cuts needed in public spending, amounted to insulting the intelligence of the Electorate.
Many of that electorate will have lived through a number of downturns in either the economy or of their employer’s fortunes and they will know that in those circumstances, things have to be done differently and almost inevitably, economies have to be made. Many will have had real and recent first-hand experience of this as their company has struggled to survive the recession.
Historically, one of the first things to go as a company hits the choppy waters of a downturn has been the training budget. It takes a very brave manager to continue to invest for benefits next year when survival next month is in question.
There is some evidence that training has slowed during the recession. Take-up of the mandatory Driver CPC outside of the larger operators is slower than hoped.
No, not really, because the proven link between so-called eco-driver training and an immediate return in terms of reduced accidents, wear and tear, and, most obviously, improved fuel efficiency leading straight to a real money fuel saving. Oh, and by the way, it reduces emissions too.
There are any number of eco-driving based courses that have been approved under Driver CPC so availability is not a problem. If, as an industry, we continue to bemoan the existence of the Driver CPC because it is a mandatory requirement, imposed by Brussels, we will miss the real bottom-line benefits that it can deliver – not some time in the future, but now.
The DfT/DSA consultation on Driver CPC asks whether eco-driving should be made a mandatory part of the periodic training. We say, yes it should, because we then know that all drivers are being developed to a standard and maintained at least at that standard. Research suggests that driving behaviour degrades over time after eco-driving training meaning that their fuel consumption, wear and tear, etc goes up too.
What could be more sensible then than building an annual day of periodic training around refreshing those driving skills and ensuring that the bottom-line benefits continue to be delivered?
We believe that most professional drivers are just that, members of a profession and keen to develop and hone their skills accordingly. The legislation is not going away, so let’s use it more effectively right across the sector.
Back to UK plc, stability and credibility. If UK plc were a company and it followed the historic pattern, then, with swingeing economies to be made, there will be a big temptation to reduce funding for skills development – exactly analogous to a company cutting the training budget.
If your staff are already pretty well trained, you risk falling a bit behind. If that’s not the case you are in trouble. We’ve just carried out a comprehensive skills assessment of the UK and the logistics sector. The UK as a whole across all sectors of industry lies 17th out of 30 OECD countries in terms of the percentage of employees with no qualifications and 20th in terms of those deemed functionally literate.
As a nation, we are in no place to cut investment in skills. If our politicians really want a very topical warning of the need to take care, then it is that across UK industry as a whole, the only members of the “EU 15” with lower productivity than us are Greece, Spain and Portugal, and look where they are.