Flow home page

Despite the high proportion of the 2 million people working in UK logistics that are mobile or remote workers, there has been a lack of a coherent and quality assured online training to help their career development. But that is now changing with the launch of Flow.

According to research (see panel) six in 10 employees working in logistics said their firm had no structured career plan for staff despite the fact a similar percentage thought such a plan would be very useful.

Unsurprisingly, when it came to training drivers, 40% of respondents said lack of time was the biggest barrier.

It is against this backdrop that a new digital career development platform for the logistics sector, Flow Logistics Online, has been launched.


Co-founder David Coombes, also owner of The Skills Group, pictured, explains: “It is called Flow because its flows you through the career pathways We flow you through the bite-sized learning content, that's been quality assured, on the site. Flow will allow you, if you're not already in logistics, to do a pre-employment induction course and flow through to an employer or a training provider, or if you are working in the industry, then it allows you to upskill yourself and flow through to the next level in your career.”

The new platform is aimed at individual learners, employers and training providers who will post the content after it is been accredited by Skills for Logistics, a leading end-point-assessment organisation for logistics apprenticeships. It has been built in association with Road Skills Online, which has long experience in developing online training content.

Grant funding

Although the site will next year become self-financing its development and launch phase have been funded with a substantial grant from Ufi VocTech Trust, a grant-funding body which promotes vocational and technical learning for adults over the age of 18.

“The funding allows vocational technical learning not degree-level apprenticeships or management graduate trainee programmes,” explains Coombes. “Right now, a shift worker, for example a warehouse operative who starts their shift at 10pm - how are they going to learn anything?

"You can't go on an apprenticeship course and you're not on a management graduate scheme, because you haven't got the qualifications to do any of that. So how are you going to upskill yourself?"

The survey of operators shows that, while many are aware of the lack of regular learning and development opportunities for employees such as drivers, doing something about it can be difficult.

“Most big logistics employers will be the first to admit they're not giving their drivers and operatives time and opportunities to train because they're working shifts," says Coombes. “What we're doing with this is allowing somebody at operative or maybe supervisor level to learn at a time that they can, which might be during their break or when they come home from their shift.

"They can do some bite-sized learning, an hour at a time, with digital content that's been approved.”

Good timing

The timing of the launch of this new online training portal could not have come at a better time, with Covid-19 preventing a lot of face to face training. Remote workers like drivers have long been familiar with online tools but many more people have had to get to grips with remote communications in the past 10 months.

Each online learning module consists of 15 to 60 minutes of learning, coupled with a quiz-based mini-assessment to ensure trainees pay attention rather than just letting the module play in the background while doing something else

Most courses are made up of several modules and badges from the training provider are awarded on completion. When the required number of courses for each stage are completed, the trainee receives a Skills for Logistics award and moves up a level in their career pathway.

Once courses are completed they are added to the learners' digital “passports” which they can take to the next level in their career or to their next employer.

“The certificates will be quality assured by Skills for Logistics so employers will know that they've done some valuable learning,” says Coombes. “That's an important part of the Flow platform – the learner has this dynamic skills passport that they are building up all the time.”

In the initial pilot phase, the content will focus on driving – using Road Skills Online’s extensive portfolio of existing online training - and warehousing.

Filling a gap

Coombes says that Flow is aimed at hard-to-reach groups of employees for whom more structured academic routes have so far failed to work.

“This industry is not recognising vocational and technical training,” he says. “Everyone knows about graduate management trainee programmes and apprenticeships but why has logistics only claimed back 18% of the Apprenticeship Levy it has paid in?

“A lot of employers are nervous about putting their people on a 12, 24, or 36 month apprenticeship because they struggle to understand whether it's justifiable. We're constantly missing out on the vocational learning that our junior people and our shift workers need.

“This is addressing a huge gap in the way that we allow operatives to learn. We're terrible at giving our operatives and junior people the ability to learn. They can only learn in bite-sized chunks, so this is what we're doing here.”

As well as training for drivers and warehousing staff, Flow will expand to cover transport management, customer service, finance, business improvement, etc, enabling ambitious individuals to progress from entry level roles into management.

“There will be leadership skills and some supervisory content in there as well,” says Coombes. “Why wouldn't you be able to support somebody who's a team leader to become a supervisor with some online leadership skills? We have the platform, the content will come on from the right training provider or the right college - whoever is developing the right type of learning for vocational technical training.”

New recruits

For potential recruits interested in joining the logistics industry there will lots of help to get started.

“It's really a complete end-to-end pathway,” says Coombes. “We'll introduce them to employers and a training provider that's right for them.”

While ultimately trainees will be able to pay the training provider for each module they take, in practice Coombes is initially targeting large employers to buy training courses in bulk and then allow their employees to access them. This also enables Flow to provide customised training to suit employers’ particular operations, all still accredited by Skills for Logistics.

Many big employers already do their own inhouse training – some of which may well be online – but by incorporating it onto Flow it will benefit from third party accreditation and the passport makes it much easier to keep track of what courses their employees have undertaken.

It will also avoid repeating very similar training – such as industry standard inductions – that new joiners have already done with previous employers.

“The way the model will work is we're going to the big employers initially, and they'll say, ‘I've got 100 learners, we'll take 100 of those modules’,” says Coombes. “The employer will know that by using content that's promoted by Flow it's the right content that has been quality assured and they will get a certificate.

“The employers we've spoken to have difficulty keeping on top of what their employees have learnt and what their qualifications are. This is a dynamic CV that actually will really benefit the employers as well.

"Instead of having to somehow record all the learning that their individual employees have done, this digital passport will be a way of keeping on top of all the learning that their employees have done and what they need to do.”

Research proves gap in the market for online training

In a recent survey of Motor Transport readers 41% of respondents working for companies (as opposed to self-employed owner drivers) thought that in general the industry was not successful when it came to delivering vocational training.

When it came to identifying which type of employees were most in need of what kind of training, 49% said drivers needed training in compliance, 52% thought office staff needed to improve their leadership skills and 18% said warehouse staff needed better digital skills.

More than six in 10 respondents (61%) admitted their firm had no structured career plan for staff in place and only a fifth of firms had career plans for drivers. But 58% thought it would be very useful to have a structured, professional framework for their operational staff (including drivers) to enhance their career development.

When asked what were the biggest barriers to offering drivers development training, 40% cited cost while the same percentage said drivers were too busy.

When it came to delivering training, 56% of employees said their company used third party trainers while 45% did it in-house.

  • The email survey by market researchers Edge Insight was completed by 624 readers of Motor Transport between July 10 and 21 2020.