HIGH-LEVEL SEMINAR ON LOGISTIC TRAINING NEEDS IN THE MEDITERRANEAN PARTNER COUNTRIES IN THE CONTEXT OF THE LOGISMED NETWORK Barcelona, 23 and 24 of November 2010 Synthesis and conclusions The High-Level Seminar held during the afternoon of the 23rd and the morning of the 24th of November congregated some 40 experts in logistics and in logistics training coming from most Mediterranean Partner Countries (MPCs) and from several EU member countries. There were numerous presentations from representatives of the public sector and from private logistic operators, industrialists and specialists in logistic education and training (see attached programme), followed by questions, and a round table at the end of the formal sessions in which all major issues were thoroughly discussed. The objectives of the seminar were: 1)
Confirming the diagnosis of EIB study regarding education in logistics in the MPC; Validating the concept of a feasibility study for a Regional Logistic Training Network for the Mediterranean; Identifying training needs and other key issues to be further analyzed in the feasibility study of the training network, and Defining the main components of LOGISMED main study in order to facilitate the elaboration of its Terms of Reference.
The background paper on the LOGISMED training network prepared by the European Investment Bank (EIB), with the assistance of a consulting group led by CATRAM, was the starting point of the work, which aimed at setting up both the context and the content of a study on the identification of training needs and the proposal of solutions to meet those needs, among which the establishment of a regionwide logistics training (LT) initiative in the MPC. The study must be seen as an essential input for the creation of the LOGISMED network of logistic platforms (EMLP - EuroMediterranean Logistic Platforms). As they are expected to be the model for the development of national networks, those platforms aiming to get the EMLP label will have to ensure some quality standards that will only be attained with highly qualified staff. As demonstrated by the EIB study and confirmed
during the Seminar, there is a major deficit of trained personnel across the region. In order to have the right amount of skilled labour when the new (or reconverted) logistic platforms will become operational, it is necessary to start immediately a resourceful training action. The study must thus be carried out quickly and provide results that could be implemented in the short term.
The experts participating in the High-Level Seminar were thus confronted with the request to give clear indications on the critical issues related to the LT situation in the MPC and on the best ways to handle them under the LOGISMED initiative. It appeared that there was a general agreement on most points raised and the following conclusions were reached without opposing views:
1) There is a clear need for logistic training (LT) at all levels. This has been demonstrated by the studies carried out in the past, but also by the fact that there is a strong competition among logistic operators to recruit trained professionals from the lowest operational levels to management. Given the situation of high unemployment in most Mediterranean Partner Countries (MPC), this unfulfilled demand is particularly unacceptable and unnecessarily increases logistic costs in the region. 2) Whilst the lack of qualified staff is most resented by logistic and transport operators, it is quite obvious that a similar situation exists for internal logistics in industry and agrobusiness and for some public services. 3) The education and training requirements, notably in technical aspects, are practically the same in all MPC. Even if the starting position is different, the targets to be reached in terms of the qualification of logistic specialists could be assumed to be the same for all MPC. As initiatives to solve the training deficits start to appear in many MPC, it is considered that a joint action to establish a common training model, adapted to the region, would reduce wasteful redundancies and could benefit from strong economies of scale. 4) There is a need for training at administration levels. Only if officials in charge of proposing and implementing changes in the regulatory framework understand the needs of the sector will they be able to address the subject in the right terms. Therefore, training should not only be addressed to workers of the logistic sector but also to officials.
5) The regional character of such initiative is obvious. It should be considered within Action 17 of the Regional Transport Action Plan for the Mediterranean. This would clearly facilitate the political support of the EU and the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM), which would be more difficult to obtain through bilateral discussions between the EU and the different MPC. The final objective of EU action in the Mediterranean is to accelerate the economic and social development of the MPC and the creation of the EuroMediterranean free trade area. The provision of know-how and targeted funding are key factors to leapfrog the welfare path followed by the EU countries, so MPC could converge more quickly with them in economic and social development. The logistic training programme fits perfectly into the EU Neighbourhood Policy. 6) Whilst wider in scope, a Regional Logistics Training Action could, at least initially, be considered part of the LOGISMED initiative, which requires trained staff at all levels to develop the network of EuroMediterranean Logistic Platforms (EMLPs), which are seen as the model for the development of logistics in the region. Indeed, some training facilities will be needed within those platforms pretending to obtain the LOGISMED label, so the EMPLs could be used to put under way the development of the common training action. 7) The study to be launched soon with the support of the Marseille Centre for Mediterranean Integration should produce concrete proposals regarding the qualifications to be provided for the various levels. The nine levels proposed in the LOGISMED study seem adequate, with each one possibly containing a variety of specific trainings with similar knowledge requirements. To obtain the LOGISMED certification, the training courses should reach a predetermined level of quality. Existing courses could immediately qualify, other should be adapted and some others will require their creation ex-novo. The study should describe the situation of each country and give a first indication of the improvements needed, in particular at the operational level, to reach the desired education for all categories. 8) The labelisation/certification issue should be addressed in all MPC in order to obtain a consensus on the requirements to obtain the diplomas and to determine how this could fit into
the existing vocational and higher education framework. The LOGISMED training action will simply provide recommendations in the development of the logistic training models of the MPC. There are problems derived from the inadequacy of existing legislation and from the fact that responsibilities for logistic operations are spread among many administrations. The quality requirements of the LOGISMED training certification should contribute to the resolution of some of these problems, as the country will have to take steps towards a more efficient system if it wants to participate in this region-wide initiative. In no case this should be seen as an interference with the sovereign rights of the MPC, because LOGISMED is simply an option to facilitate the modernisation of the logistic sector and its attractiveness for foreign direct investment. 9) The training system should provide basic education on the specifics of each proposed level. This basic education will be recognised through the relevant diplomas, which, when necessary, will indicate the relevant specialty within the level. This certification should be useful for operators, industries and public officials. Some additional on-the-job training for the specific requirements of the company, institution, etc. , will most probably be needed. Such enhanced training cannot be provided by a common centre. However, continuous education for specific topics is essential for knowledge updating and should constitute a complementary activity of most training centres. Student exchange programmes across the region and with the EU should be promoted as an essential means to improve international links, which are essential for logistics and trade. However, there are still major administrative difficulties to implement them and the first exchange actions should focus on professors and training specialists. The governments of the MPC and the EU should remove existing difficulties regarding visas and permits for mobility programmes for logistic professionals and students. 10) The means offered by the Internet for distance education should be widely used, in particular for the higher levels. However, LT should be practical and therefore an important component of the training should be carried out within the logistic system itself. It is thus essential that private companies, their associations and public institutions related to logistics both intervene in the definition of the curricula
and systematically host students and trainees for practical courses, which should be evaluated as part of the overall training process. The implementation of training programmes should start with the preparation of a pool of trainers that could contain some EU specialists in the early phases, but should quickly be replaced or complemented by local trainers. Regarding the actual training courses, those to be offered first should be the lower levels, both because availability of operational staff is essential to attract companies to the logistic platforms, and because more educated staff are more adaptable and could more easily be taught the specifics of the job. Whilst the knowledge of languages must be promoted in a sector that is essentially international, the English language being the dominant in the sector, all logistic professionals should have at least a basic understanding of it. For the higher levels, language education (English, but also French for the Mashreq countries) is considered a must. LT should help in establishing a better market for logistic specialists, a market that is affected by a lack of supply. Staff is presently trained on-the-job by the operators, which have difficulties in recruiting good professionals and in keeping them after training. It is important to attract to the sector a sufficient number of capable individuals at all levels. Awareness campaigns to improve the public image of logistics should contribute to this. On the other hand, it is also important, notably in the public sector, to establish clear career paths, related to improved knowledge and performance, allowing progress within the companies and institutions to the most prepared individuals. Continuous education will be an essential component of these career paths. A structure is needed to develop the LT training network and to ensure its continuity. As LOGISMED is the region-wide initiative with the most urgent training needs, it could be used to put underway the first phase of such structure, responsible for organising the cooperation, awarding the quality labels to the diplomas offered by the various training centres, building the pools of professors, etc. If this initiative proves successful, an ad-hoc regional structure with these functions for the global needs of the MPC could be envisaged.
15) The regional training structure should be complemented with a virtual observatory for data collection and research and for the dissemination of best practices. One of its functions should be the generation of awareness on the importance of the sector for the economy and the interest of a professional career in logistics. 16) The study should look into the financing of the LT training network. Whilst some components could be considered part of the national education system, some other, in particular inthe-job training and continuous education will require a contribution from the private sector.