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Call to policy makers: four key skills themes to drive UK PLC

Dr Ross Moloney has been actively engaged with skills policy for the last ten years and has held prominent positions within the Logistics Sector. As he opens his new company, FireDog Research, a research, marketing and communications agency, Dr Moloney appeals to policy makers to take heed of four key themes for skills that will drive UK PLC forward.

Addressing the first of these themes, I call on policy makers to never forget that the Logistics Sector is, quite literally, the driver of economic recovery. Just because delivery is often without a direct price to the customer, we should not assume that it has no value. Logistics is rarely listed as a priority sector in government documents. However, can you think of a better way to make the UK more competitive than improving the productivity of the domestic Logistics Sector? One in 12 employees in the UK work in logistics – a sector responsible for storing and moving everything you can see. Without a high quality domestic Logistics Sector the UK will not be an attractive location for investors seeking to build a factory or distribution centre. So, while logistics may not be considered a ‘glamorous’ sector, it really does matter to the everyday life of UK PLC. Government need to see it as the important sector it is. This will have implications on a whole raft of policies.

Secondly, the Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (DCPC) needs to be re-examined. It’s not ideal and we should be mature enough to reflect and reconsider. I believe in training. But I don’t believe in DCPC as it is now. This is a missed opportunity and actually many employers simply see it as an extra burden both in terms of time and money. A quick Internet search shows the widespread disaffection with the current DCPC. Having completed the initial five year cycle, why not think about what it is that we really want out of DCPC and how can we achieve it? Being able to repeat the same course 5 times in a week just doesn’t feel right.

As all of the major political parties promise increased numbers of Apprenticeships, I fear that we are getting close to them becoming a political football. I believe in Apprenticeships that deliver high quality and meaningful training. This is surely the crucial part of the offer. But it is vital that greater uptake should not be prioritised to the detriment of quality. There is a long and depressing history of qualifications suffering because they are treated as a synonym for educational success. It is vital that we must not mess up Apprenticeships but we should acknowledge that they are not perfect. Genuine improvement is needed, not simply change for its own sake. Crucially, funding should be aligned with market need and market failure – having the same funding model across all frameworks is a flawed approach.

Finally, be aware that the seemingly subtle differences between ‘Demand-led’, ‘Employer-led’, and ‘Employer-owned’ approaches have huge implications on the ground. Investing in people feels like something an employer should do alongside the State. Please don’t expect employers to take on the entire burden of training themselves. Employers of course need to reflect on their human capital, as they do all other inputs, but should the State not have a role in getting people work ready or even job ready? Surely this is a genuine partnership between the public and private sectors.

I am also interested in the efficacy of the employer-ownership pilots administered by the UKCES. I know employers initially struggled with the bureaucracy associated with contracting. How did the projects perform? Did they offer genuine value for money?

Clearly, we are in a run up to an election but this intervention is not intended for point scoring. Policy makers should instead, take it as positive advice from somebody experienced at the ‘coalface’ of skills and logistics issues. It’s now time for them to recognise the importance of logistics and its skills needs.

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