From education to employment

Greening the economy means greening the skills sector

Ashley Barnes

The logistics sector has a pivotal role to play in the race to achieving net zero and creating a sustainable, green economy. By combining skills development, end-point assessment and sector expertise, VTCT believes the industry will rise to this challenge.

The logistics sector is undergoing a significant transformation, facing multiple challenges with skill shortages, increased regulation, and the transition to a sustainable and green economy. The acquisition of Skills for Logistics by VTCT could provide a much-needed boost in designing and delivering the necessary qualifications and supporting skills development to prosper in this changing landscape. By coming together, we have the profile, expertise and appetite to embrace these challenges and set the quality benchmark for qualifications and skills development for the logistics industry and beyond.

The logistics sector is in the midst of a perfect skills storm

On the one hand, the sector has experienced incredible growth resulting from the dramatic expansion of online retail during and after the pandemic, whereby the sector is set to grow by 6.5% and 5.7% over the next four years in the UK and globally, respectively. This growth is against the backdrop of Brexit, where the option to import skilled labour with ease is gone, meaning that employers in the logistics sector are facing a net deficit of skills, with some estimates placing this at over 100,000 vacant posts.

This skills shortage may have an impact beyond the sector as a whole because logistics serve as the engine room for the UK economy. Further, the real-world skills required within the sector are transforming. In addition to developing the knowledge and skills to embrace advancing technology, equity and diversity and leadership and management like so many sectors, the green agenda is challenging and will transform this sector significantly.

An exciting opportunity for us to upskill and reskill the logistics sector

However, these challenges present an exciting opportunity for us to upskill and reskill the logistics sector and use education to create a workforce that can adapt to the evolving needs of the nation, especially as we draw closer to the net zero deadline.

It is crucial to recognise that while the logistics and transport sector is rapidly expanding, it also contributes over 30% of global carbon dioxide emissions due to its reliance on fossil fuels. Meeting the net zero target by 2050 requires the sector to play a pivotal role in reducing emissions.

Encouragingly, many operators are already investing in lower carbon fuels and technologies, altering their business practices to enhance fleet efficiency, and promoting responsible driver behaviours to minimise fuel consumption and emissions. The International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) has developed a standard for quantifying greenhouse gas emissions, specifically from transport chain operations, and Logistics UK is actively campaigning to assist logistics businesses in achieving net zero. These initiatives demonstrate the sector’s determination to tackle this challenge.

However, regulating the industry alone is just one piece of the puzzle

Embedding net zero and green practices directly into skills training and fostering a culture of continuous learning can lead to sustainable change aligned with global needs. Green practices necessitate new skills, increasing the burden on well-intentioned employers as they navigate heightened regulation. This proposition is why the merger between Skills for Logistics and VTCT holds tremendous promise.

As one of the largest awarding organisations in England, we support over 120,000 learners and apprentices annually through our work with more than 2,000 approved centres in the UK and 49 countries worldwide. As a charity, we remain wholeheartedly committed to continuing to achieve our charitable purpose of providing a direct line of sight to a job for learners, reinvesting in the services we offer to the skills sector, and placing learners at the heart of everything we do.

For over 60 years, we have been innovating for the betterment of not only our industries but society as a whole. Our agility has seen us creating the only sector-specific Covid-19 qualifications during the pandemic and helping hands-on sectors resume work.

We have also created pathways for employers in our sectors to apply a holistic approach to sustainability with bespoke sustainability in the workplace qualifications mapped against the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, showing that we are no strangers to using our expertise to make positive change. This aptitude for creating educational solutions for societal problems will make us a powerful partner in tackling the race to net zero within the logistics sector.

‘Turbo charge’ Skills for Logistics

Specifically, we offer a vast array of end-point assessments spanning 23 standards, and this has grown to 31 with the Skills for Logistics acquisition. This diversification will allow us to ‘turbo charge’ Skills for Logistics to offer employers and training providers the skills they need to fill vacancies with skilled professionals. This partnership, uniting VTCT’s awarding expertise with Skills for Logistics’ industry experience, will establish the gold standard for trusted qualifications and micro-credentialing in tomorrow’s green economy.

As the world undergoes constant change and demands both sustainability and technological advancements, leveraging education to ensure the robustness of skills will become indispensable in the logistics sector. From fully electric heavy goods vehicles to integrated AI, these once inconceivable advancements are now a reality, especially in light of the race to achieve net zero.

The logistics sector will continuously require new solutions, accompanied by the need for new skills. With VTCT and Skills for Logistics’ combined expertise, training can keep pace with these transformative developments, preparing the workforce for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

By Ashley Barnes, Deputy CEO of VTCT and Chair of the Board of Directors of Skills for Logistics.

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