Saturday, December 21, 2013

Government Sponsored Logistics Outfit Plans to Develop Freight Forwarding and Road Haulage Sectors

New Boss Outlines His Proposals to Attract and Support Properly Skilled Talent in Future
Shipping News Feature

UK – The problems which constantly dog government sponsored organisations which have been put in place to encourage or oversee a particular sector are often those associated with any state initiative. Getting the message across to areas such as the freight forwarding and road haulage sectors in a country which has traditionally eschewed formal qualifications and been largely controlled by operations spawned by entrepreneurial endeavour make life doubly difficult for entities such as the Skills for Logistics (SfL) programme.

Just a week or so ago we wrote how the Skills Funding Agency had pulled the financial plug on another such initiative, the National Skills Academy Logistics, which had begun operations with some worthy objectives which it presumably never managed to meet. Now the newly appointed boss of SfL, Dr Ross Moloney, has set out how he sees the future for his programme and how he intends to achieve it in the face of what many consider some fairly pathetic attempts by governments to generate worthwhile employment.

What follows is a Q&A session devised by Dr Moloney in an attempt to explain and educate the logistics sector, from individuals and SME’s up to giant corporations, to explain what options and support are available to bring what has often previously been an ad hoc industry up to the modern standards needed in a world where economy and efficiency are everything.

Having taken on the role of CEO of Skills for Logistics, what is the first thing on your ‘To Do’ list?  Over the years, one of the biggest challenges for Skills for Logistics, the Sector Skills Council for Logistics & Wholesale, has been to explain the role we play in the industry. As the new CEO of Skills for Logistics, my first duty is to provide a simple answer: our aim is to ‘Attract, Develop & Support’ people and companies in the Logistics Industry.

We are not in competition with sector bodies and management organisations; our purpose is to get job seekers into jobs and fill the demand for people in our sector, particularly in those hard to fill positions. The Logistics Sector needs to attract new talent, make people better at their jobs and improve businesses. This is vital for the UK economy.

Can you explain why this objective is so important? Our sector employs 8% of the nation’s workforce yet we need 588,000 additional workers between 2014 and 2020; employers report that many people seeking jobs are not ‘work ready’; the UK Logistics Sector is poorly qualified some 41% of the industry’s workers do not hold a ‘level 2’ qualification; and, finally, almost half of logistics companies do not fund or arrange staff training.

Why does the Logistics Sector struggle to attract people? Logistics is often mischaracterised as a sector that does not offer great career opportunities. People, especially the young, are not drawn to it as a career choice and employers are struggling to fill their vacancies.

What is SfL doing to change this perception? We are delivering numerous solutions designed to inform people about the range of great careers the sector offers and to get them into jobs. By connecting local employers to schools and colleges through our established products such as ‘Made in China’, The Logistics Locker and Skills Calculator, we can ensure that young people are aware of the exciting opportunities that a career in logistics offers by calling upon.

Can you explain how these products can help?Made in China’, the curriculum resource aimed at 14-16 year olds, supports mathematics, communication, problem solving and enterprise in the curriculum and brings alive some important logistics concepts within a ‘real world’ setting.

The Logistics Locker, is an on-line resource consisting of toolkits for logistics employers, employees, schools, colleges and graduates. It aims to raise the awareness of the opportunities within the industry. In particular, the schools and colleges locker can help demonstrate to young people what the industry can offer and, for example, how they can enrol on an apprenticeship.

The Skills Calculator, enables people to see what their earning potential could be as a fully skilled employee in any one of over 150 job roles currently identified across all job functions and career levels.

Are you only seeking to attract youth into the sector? We must also reach out to other parts of the labour market such as the military, the long-term unemployed, people looking to return to the labour market and ex-offenders to help get them into logistics jobs. A great example is the Military Work Placement Scheme (MWPS), which was piloted from November 2012 to August 2013. It offered military leavers a fully funded, 2-week work placement with quality logistics organisations. Placements ranged from the shop floor to all levels of management. The MWPS was hugely successful with 1,000 work placements being provided and over 100 jobs secured. The 2,264 applications it received showed there was a huge demand for the programme.

What is SfL’s role when it comes to the ‘develop’ aspect of your message? We want to help people have the best possible logistics careers. We are about bridging the gap between being qualified or available for a job and being work ready, we hear regularly from employers how interviewees are often not work ready.

What is SfL doing to bridge this gap? SfL, together with Beyond2030, have established a Jobs Club development programme providing opportunities for jobs in the logistics-centric areas of in Rugby and Nuneaton. It focuses on access to job searching skills and a 6-week development programme focusing on the knowledge, motivation, skills and confidence to help get people into employment. Ideal for unemployed individuals, the programme can easily be adapted for other parts of the labour market.

The first Job Club went live in Rugby in March 2013. Over 200 people completed the programme and were given access to pre-employment training. Over 100 people received mentoring from employers and, to date, several previously long-term unemployed people have secured permanent jobs.

What has SfL done to promote career progression? The Logistics Sector has historically lacked a career progression route. So SfL created the Professional Development Stairway (PDS) to provide a common platform for employers, employees and partners to understand and manage career development opportunities across the Logistics Sector. The PDS supports people looking for work in the sector (and advisers) to highlight suitable entry points; promotes the sector as one that offers a varied and interesting career; and also supports those already working in the sector to show career and progression opportunities.

What about training? SfL is also helping employers to access the training they need. We are working with employers, colleges and training providers to help identify and connect employer training needs to education and training provision. The Logistics Guild is building relationships with training and education providers to ensure there is support for the skill needs of employers and that employers are signposted to the most appropriate provision.

The final part of your tripartite message is support. Can you describe the ways SfL can support individuals, employers and partners? For many, particularly smaller companies, training comes low down on the priority list and accessing funding can be complicated. SfL knows how to help companies seeking funding for training and government support. We can bring together employers, local authorities, LEPs, schools, colleges, and other organisations to tackle this. We are successfully securing employer match funding for a range of our current projects, and the Logistics Guild is providing members with a range of services to support their logistics success. 

Why is it important to bring employers together? Effective employer networks are an important lever for harnessing and increasing employer investment in skills and overcoming common barriers such as lack of awareness of skills needs, difficulty in accessing learning and training provision and problems related to the costs of training.

How is SfL achieving this? We have established Local Logistics Community Networks (LLCNs) to increase its attractiveness amongst local talent pools, support recruitment into the sector and promote the benefits of and encourage skills development. LLCNs consist of employers, local authorities, LEPs, training providers and other organisations that are focused on skills development and employment.

How can LLCNs help when it comes to accessing suitable training provisions? SfL can engage both employers and training providers, ensuring that employer demands are articulated and relevant training is available through a local network of quality assured training providers. LLCNs will also bring together organisations to aid recruitment into the sector.

What role will the Logistics Guild play in supporting the industry? Anyone who works in the sector can also find support through The Logistics Guild. This shared resource, run for and by its members, is free and no qualifications are required to become a member and gain access to ideas, support, guidance, development and jobs.

Are there other initiatives from the Logistics Guild to support the sector? We are developing a Credit Union for the Logistics Sector, which will provide a source of funding or a way of indirectly reducing the cost of training to businesses. Any financial surplus from the Logistics Credit Union will be channelled as bursaries for members to help pay for training. Importantly, in a sector with a larger proportion of people who struggle with reading and writing, money can be drawn by members to help improve basic skills.

As the Credit Union develops momentum, we hope that it can offer financing to employer members for vehicle, plant and machinery leasing at preferential rates, all with the ethical lending ethos of a Credit Union.

 How does SfL keep in touch with what the Logistics Sector is doing and what it needs? SfL’s research and intelligence helps employers, partners and government – both nationally and locally understand the Logistics Sector when planning and investment decisions. It also underpins all of work, which I’ve described her, carried out by Skills for Logistics.

Photo: Dr Ross Moloney