Skills for Logistics is a one of twenty-five sector skills councils (SSC), covering the main sectors of UK plc. The first appeared in 2002, we were number fifteen in 2004 and all are now in place and all working to address, for their sector: engagement with employers, improving the quality of training supply and increasing employer investment in training and development.
None of the other sectors quite match the characteristics of logistics which has:
The burden of a name few people understand.
No history as a single sector but more dispersed among the supply chains that it serves.
Very few publicly funded qualifications.
No recognised top to bottom career structure.
No place on the schools curriculum.
Little support from employers historically for external qualifications (NVQs).
Comparatively low numbers of employees who are functionally literate and functionally numerate.
Comparatively low numbers of employees with at least level two qualifications (five good GCSEs equivalent).
These last two points are an indictment for a sector that has a poor image and is struggling to recruit new entrants. However, help is at hand, as government targets are aimed at addressing basic skills issues as a priority (addressing the dreadful underperformance of the school system) and reducing the number of employees without at least a level 2 qualification by 40 per cent by 2010.
At Skills for Logistics, we have recognised that the very poor starting point for logistics can be a virtue. It has enabled us to set up The Professional Development Stairway as a single careers, qualifications and programmes framework for the sector. We are pursuing our declared mission of moving companies in logistics towards continuous professional development for all their staff.
However, the key point in the above list is that which covers the distrust employers feel for external qualifications and the way they view them as unnecessary providing you can measure competency. The mantra goes that external qualifications are unnecessary if you are not planning to change companies.
This completely misses the point about the benefits in terms of self-respect concerning achievement of recognised qualifications and how this will contribute to a professional image for logistics. Enlightened companies are starting to unlock the potential that this offers.
While all the above is laudable, you can take a horse to water but you cannot make it drink. At least that was the case until last December when the long awaited Leitch Report was published.
On first reading, this very comprehensive piece of work will make some significant changes to UK plc. One important looking one which is relevant here and was reinforced by the newly appointed Skills Tsar is that the government plans to produce regulation from 2010 to force employers who have not trained their workforce to level 2 and the requisite basic skills levels, to do so.
That is the government saying to industry that you have three years tops to get your self-help act together if not, regulation and all its associated bureaucracy will kick in then. That should concentrate the mind of employers.
A more considered view of the implications of the Leitch Report will follow in next months’s column but in the meantime, Machiavelli once said ‘there is nothing more perilous or more uncertain to its success than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things’. A turbulent journey lies ahead for the next few years.