Networking the hotspots

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Local priorities mean that a one-size-fits-all approach is not the way to go

Directly after the launch of the Military Work Placement Scheme in November, I left the Imperial War Museum in London and travelled that evening the length of the country to Glasgow, where I was due to present the Top Training Road Haulage Operator award at the next day’s Transport News Scottish Rewards Ceremony.

Congratulations to the winner, Matt Purdie & Sons. Unlike many industries, London is not the epicentre of logistics. The logistics sector is spread across the entire nation.

While one in twelve of the UK’s workforce works in logistics, in key areas of the UK the sector is actually likely to employ between 20-30 per cent of the working population. These hotspots can usually be pin-pointed on a map where the major motorways intersect. Eurocentral in Scotland, Daventry in England, Warrenpoint in Northern Ireland and Taff’s Well in Wales are some of the major hubs that are ideal centres for Local Logistics Community Networks (LLCNs).

At the awards event, which was attended by Fergus Ewing MSP, minister for energy, enterprise and tourism, I was pleased to host a table for guests including Grahame Smith, UKCES commissioner and general secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress together with representatives from partner organisations – Skills Development Scotland and North Lanarkshire Council – and logistics sector employers Forth Ports, Brakes Foodservice, John G Russell Transport and Robert Wiseman Dairies. This is a good example of the blend of organisations that can develop local logistics sectors.

Logistics employers within the network can be connected with people and institutions in the local communities within their catchment area, particularly schools, training providers, colleges and universities. This will enable the creation of new talent pools of people who are both aware of logistics and the career opportunities that it offers. Such a forward-looking network can focus on local issues to produce a sustainable pool of talent.

In Westminster, the Heseltine Review into how governments engage with industry makes a strong case for local engagement between the public and private sectors. By operating within a local network as part of a group, logistics employers can talk powerfully as a single, coherent voice. What is more, those employers represent a key business function (logistics) that will go a long way to determining how successful the economic priorities of that local area will be met. Working with the local authorities the LLCN members can help formulate plans as well as engaging with local schools, colleges and universities.

Engagement between local logistics and schools can be seen in close proximity to Scotland’s Eurocentral Hub. The local Bathgate Academy, has spearheaded school-level interest in the logistics sector having successfully run logistics-themed, Challenge Day events for its S5 pupils since 2009, and has linked up with local companies Norbert Dentressangle and Tesco, which provide support and act as judges. The academy also uses the Skills for Logistics designed Made in China programme to support mathematics and enterprise in the curriculum for 14-16 year olds. This uses as its context the process of transporting MP3 players from where they are made in China, to where they are sold in the UK. Moreover, Bathgate has now added the National Progression Award in Supply Chain Operations into its senior phase curriculum. This is to provide a pathway into employment for senior students, as it is part of the Modern Apprenticeship scheme.

Local Employer Groups can provide a number of additional benefits, such as enhancing engagement between employers and current employees; providing a portal of industry knowledge specific to the local business community about logistics training and development issues that SfL can feed into government and other national stakeholders; provide a forum for taking action on training and development recommendations for solutions to local business community issues; provide leadership on logistics sector training and development; and finally, they can raise the profile of the logistics industry as a whole and allow all people to have a say in their industry.

Given the priority that local logistics has within Skills for Logistics’ own strategy, our schemes and initiatives – such as occupational craft skills and military work placements – are devised to support LLCNs. This recognises that a “one size fits all approach” is not the way to go because local logistics hotspot areas will have their own local economic priorities, which makes it necessary to take a tailored approach.

Just take the example of the area around our own Milton Keynes offices, where there is a large, successful, high-tech motor racing base that requires specific logistics needs to support it. The aim is to encourage people in the hotspot areas to put logistics at the top of their list of employment options to attract the best people into the sector and, through their development, create the strongest possible logistics industry across the country.

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