Brown Paper Process MapI came across this article today, and being considered by some to be an expert on IT, it registered with me. I often get asked what app someone should use, but have also learned to be careful, because what works for me doesn’t always work for others. The question of whether it works as part of the process it is in, is also very appropriate. The promotion of process mapping as part of the solution interested me, as Archomai are also advocates of the use of process maps.

So how does this relate to skills? In a similar way to apps, process maps are useful when you are looking for the people and skills that you need. If you have a problem and the answer appears to be to recruit someone, it is worthwhile stepping back and reviewing the process map for the area in question – or creating one if there is not one.

Why? Because over time processes change, sometimes obviously and sometimes not so obviously. This could be because the skills that were initially available are no longer available, and the process has been adapted. It could be that technology has been introduced but the process has not been re-assessed to see whether it is still efficient.

Whilst skills gap analysis is something that many people and businesses do, the process map should be a pre-cursor, so that what needs to be done has been reviewed, and possibly changed, in order to define the actual skills needed.

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Hull and Humber needs to bring ideas to the table

This week the Cities Commission followed the Chancellor and Core Cities in backing a Supercity powerhouse of the North. The working title “ManSheffLeedsPool” may well grab the headlines but it is a bit late. In 2005, architect Will Alsop coined the term Supercity with a far more dynamic concept based on a City that linked the urban and rural space from the Mersey to the Humber. Obsessed with turf wars, Hull and Humber failed to build on that concept and we risk losing out again – if we don’t generate the ideas that buy the seat at the North’s top table.

When Rovers wanted to be part of Super League they had to become a Centre of Excellence for the door to be opened. Now, Hull City Tigers are developing their youth set-up to be part of the elite. We need to generate ideas far beyond the fact that we are in a great location for offshore wind. We need to lead with ideas for the North that can create wealth and jobs locally and be innovative enough to add value elsewhere. Energy Region has to be more than words. Ask 14 year olds if we are that place – not those in the corridors of power!

Recently, I visited the 100 acre Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre in South Yorkshire and marvelled at the vision and what has been accomplished with enlightened public investment and committed private sector firms such as Boeing, Rolls Royce and many more. More significantly, it is where this all started that is more impressive and challenges those doubters that add nothing to hard won momentum on the Humber.

From the Peasants Revolt down to the more recent Occupy protests, there are few more significant events in our social heritage than the 1984 Battle of Orgreave; where the flying pickets of the NUM clashed with police at a British Steel coking plant in South Yorkshire at the height of the miner’s strike. There is a case to see this from another perspective; as part of the sudden collapse of manufacturing in the UK during the Thatcher years that saw a major shift to the service sector and the consequent widening of the North South divide – all the more remarkable to see Orgreave now.

Today, the grandchildren of miners are building their careers with apprenticeships in workshops that take them from how to use a file on metal in a vice to computerised design and the latest in additive manufacturing. Elsewhere on the site, composite metals are being tested for use in aviation and now in medical appliances. This goes beyond traditional university teaching and research. The AMRC is led by Sheffield University and parallels the Norwegian model of linking leading Universities with local business to generate enterprise, innovation, cross training and jobs. These Institutes work closely with industry to deliver the ideas that generate careers not jobs; and wealth from investment, not handouts.

Recently, Lord Heseltine emphasised: “We need to restore to the powerhouses of Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds, Hull and the neighbouring communities the initiative that made them.” In other words give them the means to the ends which all across the North crave and UK plc badly needs to re-balance the services of the south with world class manufacturing, energy and logistics in the North. Everything is geared to wealth creation and yet the market would not have come to a place synonymous with bitter labour relations without the strong commitment from Government over the long term.

On the Humber, we need to be part of this debate on the North – and that means more than discussions in the corridors of power. We need a vision beyond local needs that everyone can identify with. In London, Sir Paul Nurse is spear heading the Francis Crick Institute as a catalyst for world class biomedical research. Near London, the Tunneling and Underground Construction Academy (TUCA) is a purpose built facility providing training in the key skills needed for tunnelling excavation and underground construction projects such as Cross Rail. Over in Rotterdam, the STC Institute offers training in the ports sector. Initially, the focus was local but soon surplus was being generated from offering the state-of-the-art facilities to ports worldwide and now, STC Rotterdam supports a global training network. TUCA and STC link to universities and vocational providers. All of these centres use the latest digital technologies across all industry sectors and shout loud about their area’s lead on ideas – this attracts inward investment.

Things are happening across the North. Doncaster has won the bid with Birmingham to be the HS2 Rail Academy. CREATE will not just deliver training for locals it seeks to become a global leader in an industry that will be worth an estimated £120 billion per year by 2017 – this means the potential for thousands of jobs for the North and even more as improved connectivity will attract further investment in other sectors. At Grimsby Institute, plans for a Logistics Academy to support the offshore renewables industry in UK PLCs Energy Region are taking shape. With the oil price falling, the industry will have to cut costs and we can compete with Aberdeen and Stavanger for training across the North.

Over the next few years, over £1 billion could be spent on expanding Reckitt Benckiser; building Green Port Hull and Able UK on the South Bank and more. Do we have the project management skills and the crafts locally to deliver and, where we lack these skills are we ready to plug the gap? As things stand, the skills effort is fragmented and we need our own Centre of Excellence to offer traing and be the voice of an industry. What about one for Construction and Energy?

Places like Doncaster, Grimsby and Hull need these beacons to build skills capacity through a concerted long term effort to grow awareness of emerging business sectors in areas blighted by generational unemployment; build competencies to equip local youth and the long term unemployed for the jobs on offer and then, improve productivity on the job that will ensure a sustainable future for those businesses committing vital long term investment to these areas. Jobs in these global industries creates the wealth and this ripples across the wider economy.

Last November, the Northern Gateways Initiative was launched with the backing of Lords Prescott and Heseltine. The initial focus was on developing the Humber Mersey trade corridor; going beyond the East West HS3 rail connectivity in calling for all sectors to be involved and now, the NGI is pushing for North 2050 – a comprehensive plan for the North to parallel plans taking shape on Scotland and Boris Johnson’s push on London 2050. Recently, Chancellor George Osborne recognised the NGI and applauded this emphasis on Centres of Excellence. NGI has local backing but it needs to sound more like the Kop than polite applause.

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No more lost generations

In February this year, the No More Lost Generations cross-party report was published. It only looked at the construction sector, but the issues raised cut across most sectors involved with physical work. The statistics quoted demonstrate how poorly served the sector is by “business as usual”:

  • 182,000 construction jobs to be filled by 2018
  • Just 7,280 completed a construction apprenticeship in 2013 (half the figure for 2008)
  • Around 10% of construction sector employees are under the age of 24.
  •  In the latest survey from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, 36% of surveyors said that labour shortages were restricting building, particularly in trades connected to the housing sector, including bricklaying.
  • Earlier research from the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) stated that 82% of construction professionals who took part highlighted the lack of skilled domestic construction personnel as an issue.
  • The industry needs to restock with skilled people to replace those that are retiring. Construction has an ageing workforce, with 450,000 expected to retire over the next 10 years.

We could go on. The report admits that there isn’t a simple answer, as we have noted in other posts in this blog. The past years have trained businesses to look to government to train people rather than train themselves as they used to; when recruiting businesses are making the selection criteria very restrictive; in the construction sector in particular, there are many businesses who are effctively sole traders who act together as informal businesses for specific projects; these businesses are very fearful of employment law and consequently tend to stay as sole traders, which reduces employment opportunity.

The set of strategies proposed are:

  • We have to improve an understanding in schools of the exciting and varied opportunities for those who want a career in construction, from traditional crafts, to management, to computerbased modelling.
  • We have to make it easier for young people to find an appropriate route into the industry, whether through apprenticeships or degree-level qualifications.
  • We need to ensure that training programmes are better linked to the nature of the jobs that are likely to be available and to reduce the dropout rate from apprenticeships and other training courses.
  • We have to use the levers available through public-sector procurement and the planning system to require realistic and effective training and employment commitments from employers. But raising aspirations will need committed support from Government, social landlords and local authorities too. Although
    local authorities and social landlords are increasingly using these levers to push for training, success is patchy.
  • We need to secure much greater commitment and buy-in from industry leaders
    in securing the step change that is needed to help young people secure worthwhile employment in construction, and in doing so lay the foundations for a sustainable and modern industry.

Archomai and its partners, especially Preston Road NDC, Grimsby Institute Group and Simultech Scotland, through the EAC and HSCBC projects will provide innovative and collaborative solutions to some of these strategies. The use of industry standard training simulators is key to raising awareness, aspirations and providing high quality, cost effective training programmes. They provide a realistic experience of the equipment used in construction – cranes, dumpers, excavators, etc. – that excites young people while providing the physical and digital feedback that is essential for high quality training programmes for cross training experienced people.


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Thoughts on road transport

Commercial Motor magazine has had a few items recently related to skills in the transport industry. They shed a little light onto the issues that lie behind why the average age of drivers is continuing to move towards 60.

First, LGV test passes are down for yet another year – LGV test passes down again. In 2008/09, 86,826 tests were taken; in 2012/13, that has dropped to 43,589.

Another part of the same article noted that 120,000 existing drivers have yet to start any of the CPC training that they have to have completed by September 2014, or their licences will be invalid. There is bound to be an economic impact if that number of drivers stop working in the run up to Christmas 2014.

The next item that caught my eye – Cut the price of training – points out that to get the basic commercial driving licences (C and C+E) costs a person £2,400. Barry Proctor is arguing for training to be non-VATable. However, one wonders whether businesses that are complaining about not being able to find drivers might be better considering paying for young drivers to train – an informal training levy? Ok, there’s a risk that they might leave, but isn’t that down to good management.

The biggest issue though, mentioned in passing, is that UK insurers charge a much higher rate for young commercial vehicle drivers, if they will insure them at all. Interesting that, for example, French insurance companies have different strategies for their French and UK operations (this is much less of an issue in France). And there I was, thinking that the point of insurance was to spread the risk. The Wikipedia definition is “Insurance involves pooling funds from many insured entities to pay for the losses that some may incur”. It seems as though insurance companies, by working with smaller and smaller pools of risk, are starting to cause significant economic issues, i.e. this is a major reason why young drivers cannot get driving jobs.

Finally there was an item about older drivers. This gives a run down on some of the legal issues surrounding employing an aging workforce. If a common reason for enforced retirement is capability, we would suggest that a good way to test this objectively would be with a vehicle simulator, as that allows concentration and reaction times to be tested without any issues of employer bias?

However, this item started by stating that hauliers are “finding it increasingly difficult to attract younger drivers”. The other two items commented on above, might have a clue as to why this is – and it is not that the younger drivers are not ready and willing!

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The future is messy

Seth Godin’s short post, The Future is Messy, is thought provoking when you continue the thought process: anything that is messy is risky, while what has happened before is neat and consequently carries little risk.

When we have organisations who are obsessed with avoiding risk, especially if they are concerned about what the media might say, then is it any wonder that we continue to do what we have always done? In a world that is constantly changing, that means that we don’t train people for the world that might be coming, we focus on what the world needed last year or last decade. This is a cultural issue, it is not the domain of any particular sector. Continue reading

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There is no talent shortage – part 4

Archomai have been supporting the Hull based Cat.Zero project for over three years now. We ran a session with a group of young people yesterday. We cover an introduction to logistics and global supply chains with a look at supply chain technologies and hands on operating port cranes in simulators.

What is interesting is that over the three years and a few hundred young people, we can count on the fingers on one hand how many of them didn’t have “the right attitude”. They are interested, involved, engaged – even when a man with grey hair is talking to them.

Many businesses complain about the youth of today. Funnily enough, when these same people were in their teens, that was what businesses were saying also. I can well remember in the early 1970s newspapers running article on businesses complaining about graduates not being able to spell or write grammatically. Continue reading

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Where are the jobs?

What follows relates to Scotland and the Humber, but could be repeated in many, many places.

Talking to a guy who trains people to transport wind turbines from port to final location, he made the comment that most of the training he does is outside the UK – Denmark, Germany, Spain, even South Africa. He will train a group of Danes, say, and three months later, he will run into them in Inverness or Aberdeen or Ayrshire.

Support boats for the offshore wind industry sail out of Grimsby. It is very difficult to get a seat on KLM’s Sunday flights to Humberside Airport and on the flights out of Humberside on a Friday. Why? Because at least half of the crews of the boats do not come from the UK. I seem to remember that not very long ago Hull & Grimsby were major fishing ports. Are the skills needed so different? Continue reading

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Planting seeds for Horticultural jobs

Interviewed after Hull City were promoted to the Premier League, Manager Steve Bruce pointed out that the pitch had made life very difficult. In other words, a better pitch means more points. Then, Ash dieback, Dutch elm disease and sudden oak death demonstrate the critical threat to trees of major importance to the UK landscape, but Britain no longer has the capability to cope with these diseases and future threats due to a severe loss of knowledge in plant pathology. Throw in global population growth from 6 to 9 billion by 2050 and the need to generate 70% more food; some climate change issues and the position looks complex. Shift the perspective to the skills to meet the needs and the position is dire. Horticulture contributes £9 billion to the British economy each year as an industry but there are real issues on succession, skills provision and, a poor perception of prospects. Continue reading

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Making things can do more than increase GDP

Frequently, the media highlights the decline of manufacturing and the Government urges the need to reverse the trend but, the means to do so are proving elusive. Building manufacturing capacity is tough when banks don’t lend and SMEs are reluctant to train employees on core skills when the economy is so fragile. Perhaps a return to traditional crafts skills can be a cost effective way to build back the appetite and skills for manufacturing to prosper again.

Walking around Hull’s Old Town the other day I wandered into Oresome Jewellery Gallery on Humber Street and looked at the displays of locally crafted rings, pendants and all sorts of work in exotic metals and gem stones. In the workshop behind the gallery, I looked at a white board – a workshop with a group of students had just finished – noticing a sequence of words that I recognised: annealing; quenching; pickling; pumice and rolling mill. As the need for more manufacturing becomes more intense, we need to explore practical ways of doing this beyond the huge cost of building heavy manufacturing capacity.  Continue reading

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Should the term NEET be banned?

Hull Youth Enterprise, ably assisted by Charles Cracknell, are looking to campaign to change the culture around the term NEET (Not in Education, Employment and Training) and replace it with the term GREET (Getting Ready Employment (inc Enterprise) Education & Training) at least in the city of Hull, and maybe even at a national level. We certainly think that there is a level of negativity around “NEET” which is usually not warranted at all. Archomai work with Cat.Zero, whose young people are all classed as NEETs. We’ve not met any that match the usual definition of NEET – other than the specific words used in the acronym – Not in Education, Employment or Training.

Continue reading

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