Now is not a time to ignore training – FTAI

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As we advance through the phased reopening of business, people must recognise the changed business environment. Acclimatising to the ‘new normal’ will require time, investment and upskilling. The Freight Transport Association Ireland (FTAI) advised that in order for a business to be profitable, investment is important. But investment is not only about money, as education and training are a very important way to invest in business. At the FTAI, its series of courses are designed to suit employees and employers. Aidan Flynn, General Manager, FTAI reports.

“We have seen from the detail in the ‘Return to Work’ protocol that a lot will be required of us to function in the new controlled, restricted working environment. The new normal is visibly evident in the retail sector where the queuing regime is becoming a familiar sight. The need to ‘physical distance’ is restricting the numbers of people allowed into shops that rely on significant footfall. It is very challenging and will require innovative solutions to support this new reality. What was once productive and efficient will need to be re-evaluated and a new way found that supports sustainable and profitable business. Efficient Supply Chain management maximises customer value that facilitates a sustainable competitive advantage. This thinking is now up for review, travel is restricted, and production is challenging due to physical distancing requirements. The implications will manifest itself in the coming months and years. It is likely that Supply Chains will shrink initially until new avenues for sustainable growth that encourage customer satisfaction and are tried and tested to deliver trust within the system, not an easy task in these trying times.

The objective of business is to make a profit and to be successful. To do this requires ongoing strategic review and assessment of the environment in which we work. Training and education plays a vital role in helping us make the right considered decisions. The current crisis is reshaping how we learn. Schools are closed and won’t open until September; 3rd Level Institutions have closed and have moved to lectures and exams online and may not have students running through their hallowed halls this side of Christmas. Private training services have been significantly curtailed due to physical distancing requirements. To support and encourage innovation and new thinking will require financial support for our education and training sector. To neglect this will have long lasting and irreparable consequences for all in the freight distribution and logistics sector.

It is not just school leavers and students that can benefit from education and training; creating a working environment that supports, and nurtures staff learning is even more important now. New ideas, new ways of working and new skills will all be required for every business to meet the demands imposed by this pandemic. As the lead proposers for the Logistics Associate Apprenticeship (www.laa.ie) FTA Ireland is seeing first-hand the benefits of promoting education and qualifications that offers career progression and match roles with minimum qualification requirements. The Logistics Apprenticeship has delivered over 80 apprentices into the freight distribution and logistics sector within its short 2-year history. In fact, the first cohort of apprentices will complete their final exams in the coming weeks and graduate in the Autumn. The apprenticeship is continuing to grab the attention of employers and prospective new entrants to our industry even in the midst of this pandemic. One of the key objectives of the apprenticeship was to offer people already working an opportunity to get a formal qualification and support career progression and to attract new entrants into the industry to support future growth that deals with the growing skills shortage. There is no doubt, that this apprenticeship continues to deliver on both fronts. In fact, it has never been so important. Industry is changing so quickly due to Brexit and now COVID-19 that programmes like this can change the course content very quickly and effectively to keep up with this change. The net result is that there is constantly new thinking, a new way of analysing situations and new ways of delivering innovative solutions by all the graduates to support management thinking. Apprenticeships like this build a lifelong link between industry and further and higher education institutes. Linking academia and industry together is a strategy that delivers in these challenging times. Research projects and the subject matter taught in these institutions encourage and nourish industry in keeping pace with change. Therefore, the more graduates that are coming through these institutes the more adaptable to change we will be.

The sense of achievement of attaining any qualification cannot be understated. All the work, time and effort that goes into the period of study is something to be lauded and celebrated.  An even greater achievement is for mature students that are balancing a full-time job, family and study at the same time. I was reminded of this recently when the current Chairman of the FTAI Council, Adrian Byrne announced that he had completed and submitted his dissertation titled: ‘A study of prevailing factors driving gender inequality within Supply Chain & Logistics leadership roles despite projected industry skills shortages’.

This is a very topical issue and one that is important to FTA Ireland. There is a definite skills shortage and a definite lack of gender balance currently in our industry and it is something we are working to change. If we do not understand the barriers to entry to the industry for women, we will not be able to create an environment that is more welcoming and encouraging. Without projects like this, we as an industry would never make progress or change in a timely manner and we would not have the reference material to make enhanced decisions to change how we do business. Dedication and effort is very important in our working lives. To be successful the effort needs to be measured and sustained. Balancing lifelong learning with our day jobs needs support at every opportunity as it will deliver every time. I would like to thank all employers for encouraging and supporting this philosophy and encourage them to continue to do so.”