I’m writing to ask for your help

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The nature of this month’s column is slightly different to its usual presentation. Regular readers will know that I normally take this opportunity to share something from the skills world in a particular way – sometimes with my tongue firmly in my cheek.

However, this month I’m writing to ask for your help – and in return offering to assist you.

Last month I wrote briefly about the upcoming Employer Ownership Fund. Those of you who attended the DfT/FTA Listening to Industry event will have heard more details on the fund.

The Westminster Government is looking for skills to be a key driver of economic growth. I have rehearsed at length the link between training and economic success at both the micro and macro level. Many of you will know of the DfT’s Red Tape Challenge. Right across Government there is an attempt to reduce bureaucracy and interference. Where these two things meet you get the Employer Ownership Fund.

I know that the skills system has put off too many employers in the past. I know that lots of employers have dipped their toe into the qualification and standards world and had such a bad experience that they have never ventured back.

I’m not here to defend the skills system. I’m here to try and reform it so that it fits your needs. I am chief executive officer of a Sector Skills Council because I think the skills system needs reform, not because I think it’s perfect.

Late in 2011, David Cameron announced the Employer Ownership Fund of £250 million which will be used to pilot new approaches to skills. He wants employers to design, develop and purchase direct the training they need.

At the heart of the Employer Ownership Fund is the basic question: why don’t we channel public funds directly to employers so that they can decide how and where to spend it to best effect alongside their own funds.

I know this chimes with employers in our sector because I have been asked the question many times before. Unlike many other sectors, we do not have large-scale relationships with Further Education Colleges churning out job-ready recruits.

This is potentially a fundamental shift. From now on, the skills system will be here exclusively to support your businesses. You are front and centre.

Unsurprisingly, such an initiative is generating considerable interest among employers of all sizes. In the past such opportunities have been gobbled up by a handful of very large employers in a limited number of sectors.

This time round, the prospectus (available at http://www.ukces.org.uk/employerownership) makes explicit mention of working within supply chains and/or across local areas. We as a sector are brilliantly placed to do both. There is a major opportunity here for prime providers, their subcontractors and agencies to work together in individual supply chains and across logistics hotspots to produce a coherent skills system under their direct control.

To exploit this unique position, we have to compete with other ‘more engaged’ sectors by building a head of steam, and it has to be led by employers.

Now this may sound exciting. It may sound complicated. It may sound time consuming. But please be reassured. Get in touch with me. Let me know you’ll work with us and we’ll do the heavy lifting. Your support is worth its weight in gold. Let me be clear – without employer support and involvement this funding will go to other sectors.

Please don’t be put off by past bad experiences with the public sector. This could be the beginning of the next chapter.

If you would like to be involved please email me at: mick.jackson@skillsforlogistics.org

With your support we can make a real difference. Without it, we won’t.

I look forward to hearing from you.

  • Dr Mick Jackson is chief executive of Skills for Logistics.

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