Is there space for modules in logistics? : Mick Jackson

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There is currently a fierce debate going on among people who get excited by this sort of thing about modularisation or unitisation of qualifications.

The suite of qualifications in logistics contains fewer than a dozen separate qualifications. Sector Skills Councils in other sectors are faced with culling from a list that contains hundreds if not thousands of qualifications.

Our work to date in creating The Professional Development Stairway has shown us that the craft skills and the core skills are generic across the whole of the logistics sector (see

However, each of these skill sets also needs to be set in a context which is where the third element of the skills mix – supply chain specific skills come into play.

An example will help to illustrate this point. For some historical reason, the Driving Goods Vehicle NVQ at level 2 is not vehicle specific. This qualification can currently be held by somebody driving a light van or a full weight articulated rig. Many of the points underpinning driving apply to any vehicle so there needs to be the consistency offered by a single qualification but it feels obvious that we need to qualify that qualification with the vehicle type.

That further qualifying can be achieved by identifying mandatory modules that apply to all driving roles and then units/modules that cover specific vehicles. There could well be a further use of modules/units in that we have had a number of requests from particular sub-sectors for specific qualifications for their part of the industry.

If we blindly follow that route, my successor in years to come will be faced with exactly the culling dilemma being faced in other sectors and the logistics industry will not be well served if there is a confusing proliferation of similar but different qualifications. However, modularisation offers us the opportunity to give each of our qualifications a clear workplace context by offering modules that relate to specific supply chains while still maintaining the integrity of the main qualification.

What goes for driving applies equally well for warehousing and administration. Different modules in for example warehousing will allow such diverse operations as pallet network hubs, largely automated parcel hubs, the cold chain, JIT pre-assembly preparation and newspaper break bulk to be covered within the discipline of a single warehousing qualification with optional modules.

That’s one aspect of modularisation that can serve this sector well. Another is where relatively large qualifications such as foundation degrees can be spilt down into bite size chunks which gradually count towards the award. For example: somebody has just come up from the shop floor to be a transport supervisor at step six on the stairway. Do we say: “go away for the next two or three years and complete this foundation degree then come back and see us when you’re done”? Of course we don’t. It will be better to say: “go and do unit one over the next six months and we will give you, say, 60 credits towards your foundation degree, and a certificate to show you’ve done it”. Then the same for the next six months and so on.

And while we’re at it, if that aspiring manager is then transferred for operational reasons to another part of the country would it not be good for that person to carry on with earning the credits even if it was at another institution? Of course it would.

So the esoteric debate about modules is much more than that for the logistics sector. It is a heaven sent opportunity for us to produce a qualification framework that reflects what the sector needs.

l Contact Mick Jackson at:

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