We are living in challenging times and there is no doubt that the FE sector will be significantly impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Going forward, there will be new and indeed different demands on colleges in terms of skills shortages, which may well require a shake up of existing curricula and provision. Colleges will need to flexible and agile, working closely with industry to assess need and opportunity.
One area in which we do expect to see continued growth during and after the pandemic is Port Logistics and the supply chain for food or goods. This niche sector offers a wide range of career opportunities and indeed, needs to secure a pipeline of talent going forward to meet future demand.
With this in mind, the Career Colleges Trust has been developing a collaborative partnership with a specialist Logistics and Maritime vocational training college called STC, based in Rotterdam. This is with the view to launch a network of new Career Colleges in the UK, which will specialise in port logistics and supply chain management. In addition, our partnership with STC is being designed to ensure strengthened relations and trade between the UK and The Netherlands post-Brexit.
Hugh Baird College in Merseyside is planning to be the first Career College to specialise in Port Logistics. The development of this provision will align with Liverpool City Region’s economic regeneration plans for the Port of Liverpool. We then plan to extend this to other FE Colleges, in regions which have ports and a local skills’ need. Our relationship with STC will enable UK colleges to take note of best practice within the Dutch system and for students to undertake work placements in Rotterdam, participating in exciting exchange programmes.
As part of the work to develop this initiative further, the Career Colleges Trust led a fact-finding visit to Rotterdam earlier this year (before the Coronavirus pandemic hit) with representatives from eight FE colleges. The aim of this trip was to explore the potential to develop a collaborative network across the UK, focusing on Logistics and Supply Chain Management.
The FE colleges involved were: City of Bristol, Coleg Gwent, City of Glasgow, Eastleigh, Grimsby Institute (TEC), South Essex College, USP College and Tyne Coast College.
During the visit we were given an insight into the Dutch vocational education model. This is highly regarded in terms of supporting the skills that employers need – so much so that the new T Levels are closely aligned to the Dutch model of vocational training.
The visit provided the opportunity to map out ways in which the Trust and STC could create a ‘cluster’ of providers across the UK to support training and skills for the expanding logistics sector. This clearly goes beyond just Port Logistics – extending to air and road transport links and the complete logistics supply chain.
Following the successful visit (and in spite of the current Covid-19 situation) we are now working up a detailed Career College offer. This will include a curriculum model at Levels 2&3, work placements, employer engagement and exchange programmes in The Netherlands.
As we move through the global crisis we are currently facing, it’s crucial that the FE sector looks ahead to the skills needs of the post-Coronavirus world. Amid the inevitable economic hardship, there will be areas of great opportunity. We will be supporting our colleges to identify these areas – and the logistics piece is certainly one of them.
Mark Silverman, Joint CEO of the Career Colleges Trust