In 2002, the employer-led training bodies for the oil and gas, petrochemical, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, polymers and nuclear sectors joined forces to form a powerful Trailblazer SSC known as Cogent. In order to be a fully licensed SSC, this entity subsequently had to submit an Expression of Interest (EoI) for full SSC status, which it successfully secured in 2004.
The industries voluntarily came together, and were subsequently joined by Life Sciences, because they shared similar cultures which derive from a molecular transformation in their processes, the highly regulated nature of parts of their industries and common skills issues which included the need for highly skilled managers and leaders, researchers, engineers, process operators and scientists – essentially for STEM skills.
The enlarged SSC set about delivering better and more cost-effective solutions to meet employers’ skills need as well as increased influence with Government and other key stakeholders. The Cogent Board included representation reflecting the breadth of its constituent industries, and this continues to this day.
Over the past decade, we have maintained our ambition, working alongside the leadership of employers, to raise skills levels. To support employers, Cogent has worked to help reconfigure the skills supply infrastructure so that it responds more directly to their needs and also those of their employees. From schools, through to colleges and higher education institutions and then into the workplace, the system is responding to this employer focused agenda.
2011 was a year of transition, alongside a real transformation going on across the vocational skills landscape. We saw a move away from direct Government funding of skills to a system of project funding that was solutions-led so that the market delivered the outcomes.
These exciting new funded workstreams built on existing Cogent Skills programmes of work to upskill and reskill. All of this change saw employers become the “owners” of our skills and competence programmes, designing them and supporting their delivery.
Successful projects ranged from our bespoke Technical Apprenticeship Service (TAS) through to our new Nuclear Planning Tool and the extension of our renowned Gold Standard. From being a sector skills council defined by its footprint and delivering the requirements of a licence, we have evolved into a genuinely employer-led skills body valued by industry and trusted by Government to support its industrial strategy.
We have also enjoyed collaboration with Trades Unions, FE and HE and private training providers, and with Trade and Professional Bodies.
The employer-led bid for the Science Industry Partnership for skills www.scienceindustrypartnership.com, which we supported and facilitated, successfully secured funding in 2014. The government contributed 32.6 million, with £20 million from employers, alongside £31 million in-kind contributions. This funded a range of ultimately self-sustaining activities to improve skills in the sectors we represent. The SIP is now a subscription based membership body.
2016 saw the formation of the Nuclear Skills Strategy Group (NSSG) www.nssguk.com, once again facilitated by Cogent Skills. This is also an employer-led membership entity which provides ‘one voice’ to government. The NSSG is accountable for developing a nuclear skills Strategic Plan to address the key risks to skills and resources facing the industry, as it approaches a time of unparalleled growth
All of this represents our track record in delivering skills solutions to the science industries. A record which has seen all parts of the Cogent Skills Group respond to the challenges that the sector faces – from an ageing workforce through to significant skills gaps bought about by new technologies and science.