Employers and educators must work together if we are to ‘build back better’

Principal of West Suffolk College

Nikkos Savvos – Principal of West Suffolk College

As we start to emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, thoughts are turning to the re-building of the economy. Many businesses have suffered while other industries have met with growing demand. Logistics is one of those expanding sectors. While the entire population was told to stay at home, transportation of goods to people’s front doors has become an essential part of everyday life.

Here in Suffolk, the Port of Felixstowe is a huge hub for logistics, international trade and distribution. Its newly recognised status as a ‘Freeport’ by the Government, demonstrates its value to the local, regional and national economy. West Suffolk College has worked with the Port for some years and provided training courses – but we are now stepping this up as the logistics industry takes centre stage in the UK’s drive to ‘build back better’.

Exponential growth requires a supply of skilled employees, to ensure such demand can be met – particularly in light of Brexit. One of our visions at West Suffolk College is to build excellent connections with employers –both to maximise the potential for our students and to address the demand for skills.

Education is about so much more than qualifications. It’s about supporting people of all ages into fulfilling careers, in which they can progress and achieve their professional ambitions, by equipping them with a full range of employability skills. We need to ensure that the skills we are teaching are wholly relevant to the economy and that we are signposting to the industries that have the job opportunities.

So, in response to these regional growth opportunities, in September 2021 we are launching a Logistics Career College – part of a national cluster of seven colleges – in partnership with the Career Colleges Trust and STC, a specialist logistics training provider based in Rotterdam.

West Suffolk College is the only college in the region to be involved in the scheme. It will enable us to draw on the international know-how and connections needed to ensure we can offer the highest quality logistics training, preparing students for exciting careers in an industry that offers so many local opportunities.

A brand-new curriculum and new qualification in logistics and supply chain management has been developed in partnership with international employers. This will ensure that every single skill a student learns on their course will be directly relevant to the needs of industry.

This will clearly give our students an advantage when it comes to securing employment – while enabling employers to recruit employees who can hit the ground running and understand the industry in which they are working. A genuine win-win.

Looking ahead to the jobs of the future is a responsibility of educators. Careers guidance must reflect the changing landscape of our economy, ensuring that young people are well informed about their options. The green economy and sustainability offer expansive opportunities and these are areas we are tuned into, linked intrinsically with other sectors, including logistics.

We can’t initiate this sea change towards employer-led education by ourselves. We need support from the whole community – businesses, parents and prospective students – who can see the value and indeed benefit of what we are trying to achieve.

For young people, our Logistics Career College will offer the chance of travel and the undertaking of international work placements in The Netherlands – while securing industry relevant qualifications and skills, leading to a great career. For parents: the peace of mind that their children are studying with a clear goal and purpose, which provides the maximum chance of securing fulfilling employment with excellent prospects. And for employers: securing a pipeline of skills and talent for their industry, supporting long term business success and facilitating growth.

We are passionate about ensuring young people are supported to reach their full potential, which in turn, will support our region’s economy. By working together, towards these shared goals, we can all be part of this prosperity.

By Nikos Savvas, CEO, West Suffolk College Group and Suffolk Academies Trust