On March 22, 2005 Gordon Brown launched the Government’s Skills White Paper. Skills for Logistics, the Sector Skills Council for the freight logistics industries, has welcomed the White Paper as it should mark real progress in giving companies a greater say in what happens in schools, Training Providers, colleges and universities nationwide. These reflect an understanding that the UK is lagging behind the developed world in its vocational training and skills – we have the worst record of teaching of applied literacy, numeracy and IT, and the UK is one of the least productive, lagging behind Portugal and Greece.
The White Paper highlights several new initiatives that should mean a much better deal for companies and their employees. The National Employer Training Programme (NETP) – this will initially direct around £100M of Government money to employers to pay for training that they want regardless of age or the other petty constraints normally associated with publicly funded programmes.
It also recognises that employers need effective brokers to guide them through the maze of providers and funding, and recommends the establishment of an Employer Brokerage Service. This service will provide assistance in identifying funding and assistance in sourcing training. We hope that the development of NETP and specialist brokerage service will be delivered by people that really understand the logistics industries and not by people also dealing with plumbers and hairdressers
The Government’s support for Sector Academies is welcome and provides us with the means of developing a Logistics Academy later this year. The Logistics Academy will combine the very best universities, colleges and providers of work-based trainers to coordinate their activities and to raise the training/education standards offered to existing employees to improve their skills, and to people setting out on their careers. This is long overdue, University Post graduate logistics courses are full of overseas students and virtually bereft of the UK students they should be there to serve. Meanwhile the 170-plus UK Further Education Colleges with their £6Bn-plus of public funding ignore the actual needs of logistics businesses. Work Based Training Providers, mainly LGV driver training schools, are the only providers of training dedicated to the needs of individual logistics firms, and they are starved of public money. The Academy will enable us to provide some support to this needy group so that they can raise the quality of what they deliver.
Skills Academies are set to become the driving force for sectors to develop a vocational curriculum with associated products and services including new qualifications, materials and trainer training. It is anticipated that funding will come from both industry and government. Action based on this White Paper and other pre-election announcements will provide a central role for employers and Sector Skills Councils in influencing the National Curriculum, planning training provision and funding therefore ensuring the needs of UK industry are met. n
Ian Hetherington is chief executive at Skills for Logistics. Tel: 01908 3133360.