Category: Education

Get real on Apprenticeships

Get real about Apprenticeships

A few people have been in touch over the past couple of weeks to ask me what is going on in the world of skills.

Good question! I’ve been asking myself the same question for some time now!

When I left the Sector Skills Council I wrote an article that was shared across the press where I pleaded with government to do a few things. Primary amongst my calls were:

  • Please don’t forget the Logistics Sector
  • Don’t turn Apprenticeships into a political football.

I’m afraid you could make an argument that the past two weeks have been evidence that my calls were roundly ignored.

Apprenticeship Levy and the Trailblazer Framework

This week we see a reminder of National Apprenticeship Week 2016 #NAW2016 that will run from 14-18 March 2016 set amid the current media narrative on the importance of Apprenticeships for the growth of the economy. I balance this with the announcement of the Apprenticeship levy coincided almost exactly with the rejection of the trailblazer framework, something studiously created by employers and real experts from the sector.

In the past I have been accused of failing to support Apprenticeships to the extent that a leader of a Sector Skills Council should have. Maybe those criticisms were right. But let me explain.

I believe in training…

  • Evidence shows it makes you a happier and healthier individual.
  • Data clearly shows it makes you a richer and more productive employer.
  • Skills make for a better economy, which in turn should have an effect on society.

I believe that vocational training is worth just as much as academic stuff. For too long we have thought highly of one and badly of the other. That makes no sense, either emotionally or after a review of the evidence.

Does this mean that I inevitably love Apprenticeships?

Well, I adore the principle. Learning on the job. Learning whilst employed. It’s clearly the best way. I mean it’s so obvious that I really don’t know how anyone can disagree.

However. I’ve never been completely convinced that the Apprenticeship offer has been right.

As well as believing in skills, to my core I believe that employers know their market better than civil servants or quango staffers. Anyone who has ever heard me speak will know that I consistently bang on about an ‘employer-led’ skills system. Give employers the power and they will frame useful, impactful solutions.

Are Apprenticeship rules getting in the way? Is it all too much hassle?

Too often, rules about Apprenticeship funding have got in the way. Whether it be about hours, or units, or core competencies. It’s been a mess. A system has been created which has seemingly forgotten the whole point, namely to help people become amazing at their jobs.

I talk to employers – and it’s true they are usually SMEs – and hear hellish stories about their Apprenticeship experience. The hassle factor has been too dramatic and too frequently heard. They want bite sized units just as much as big qualifications. Surely employers know best what they need now as well as in the future?

Training providers are already returning funding because they can’t fill their Apprenticeship quotas. What does this tell you? Can you predict will happen to government’s decree that we’re going to have 3 million more Apprenticeships?

The rejection of the recent trailblazer frameworks flies in the face of the above.

The budget clearly showed that we are seriously pushing for an increase in productivity (how else are you going to pay the living wage without inflationary pressures?). Skills brings productivity enhancements. Employers are going to have to pay more – so they will need a more productive workforce.

So let’s get real about skills. And let’s support those who have the expertise and the drive to lead the agenda

Dr Ross Moloney
Managing Director
FireDog Research

FireDog presents Leicestershire logistics research findings with Lord Baker of The Baker Dearing Educational Trust

FireDog Baker Dearing Research

FireDog publishes Logistics Sector Research for Lord Baker and the Baker Dearing Educational Trust in the LLEP/ Leicestershire Region.

FireDog Research completes a study into the skills needs of the Logistics Sector in Leicestershire and the case for a University Technical College. 

The FireDog Research report presented by FireDog Managing Director Dr Ross Moloney at an event in Magna Park attended by Lord Baker and key logistics employers and stakeholders from the Leicestershire and LLEP, finds local young people are making decisions about qualifications with a skewed view of the career paths available and little awareness of the logistics jobs market ahead of them.

The report, undertaken by FireDog Research and commissioned by Baker Dearing Educational Trust, identified that despite projected rapid growth in the logistics sector there is an intrinsic lack of young talent being attracted to join it. This can be attributed to the outdated perceptions of young people and their parents that logistics is a low-skilled industry associated with cold, dirty warehouses. Local employers say the reality is quite the opposite and perceptions haven’t evolved in line with changes.

There is also a general lack of awareness of the diversity of the roles and career paths available in the logistics sector, including apprenticeships. The responsibility of careers advice in England shifted to schools in 2012 but there are concerns about the quality and impartiality of this approach. The report recommended that the labour market requirements of the local area need to be better understood and communicated to young people.

FireDog Research_Lord Baker_Baker Dearing Educational Trust

FireDog Research Managing Director, Dr Ross Moloney meets Lord Baker of The Baker Educational Trust

Presenting the findings at an event staged at Magna Park in Lutterworth – the UK and Europe’s largest dedicated distribution and logistics park – report co-author and FireDog Managing Director, Dr. Ross Moloney, said:

“FireDog’s research found the aging profile of workers in logistics is a real concern for businesses and creates an urgent need for employers to engage with schools in a new way. Employers agree that they must consider a range of education models including University Technical Colleges to meet skills gaps”.

Leicestershire sits in an unrivalled geographic position and is home to a thriving economy worth over £20bn and providing 487,000 jobs to the local/national economy. Nearly 35,000 businesses have premises in the region, known as the so-called “Logistics golden triangle” due to its unrivalled location. The logistics sector directly employs over 46,000 people (one in ten across the area) making it the area’s third largest employer.

Lord Baker, Chair of Baker Dearing Educational Trust, the charity behind UTCs, said:

“It is essential that young people have a good understanding of the opportunities available to them and the skills requirements of the local labour market are communicated to them so they are well prepared and make good decisions about their pathways to join the world of work. Developing and nurturing an ambitious future workforce will directly contribute to the success of our economy. University Technical Colleges are playing an important role in helping to train the next generation with the skills local businesses need. We look forward to receiving applications for UTCs from groups across the region.”

Employers who took part in interviews for the report argued that the sector was becoming more technical and more than half of them said they do not believe that new recruits have the necessary technical skills for the 21st Century sector.

Rachel North, Logistics School of Excellence Co-ordinator at Office Depot, said: 

“Young people do not understand what logistics entails and still consider it to be ‘trucks and warehouses’ so they do not apply for positions and we lose out on the talent they represent. More employers value work experience than academic or vocational qualifications so there are job opportunities at many different levels”.

As technology advances the skills required are changing to meet them. Advanced automation, software systems and high tech advances in warehousing and tracking systems means IT skills are now essential. There are also roles that require high-level expertise in applied mathematics and statistics for analysing data and to collate and interpret technical reports. Programmers, software engineers and data analysts are now required in the logistics sector to meet the demand for online consumer facing technical systems.

Read the full report here. A slide deck of the FireDog Research Presentation is also available. Please contact for a copy.

To find out more about FireDog Research and the work that we do, email


FireDog works with the Baker Dearing Educational Trust


Lord Baker, Zac Goldsmith, Maunday Todd at UTC Briefing Portcullis House, London

University Technical Colleges (UTCs) are technical secondary state schools dedicated to teaching skills and experience that high-tech employers really value. The Baker Dearing Educational Trust is the charity behind the UTC initiative and works to promote the concept nationally as well as supporting the development of individual UTCs.

As part of this work, Baker Dearing has identified the potential for creating a UTC in Leicestershire which would service the Logistics Sector in the area. FireDog Research are delighted that the Baker Dearing Educational Trust has commissioned a study with our team.

FireDog Research will be investigating and providing an overview of the national skills gaps in logistics sector, and overview of local economy, the labour market and local skills needs. In particular, FireDog will be researching logistics specific needs, skills and IAG/ vocational provision in the area. Of special note, would be an examination of future demand in the area for technology and technical expertise.

Our conclusions will be presented in a formal report at an event organised by the Baker Dearing Educational Trust. Speakers will include Lord Baker and FireDog Research Managing Director, Dr Ross Moloney with the expectation that the report will serve as a useful to those interested in establishing a UTC in the area. The event will take place on 26 March 2015. Full event details to follow.

Work to be undertaken: Literature review, outbound telephone and face-to-face interviews, digital surveys, write up, review, analysis and presentation of the formal report to UTC Stakeholders.

Find out more by contacting Rhys Davies, Communications Director at FireDog Research or visit: