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 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.
2006 saw us finalise our Sector Skills Agreement (SSA) which enabled us to create deliverable action plans to meet the priority skill needs of the Cogent sector. Another significant success saw the design and bidding for two Skills Academies for Process and Nuclear industries.
By 2007, OPITO, which was a founding partner in Cogent, was established independently from Cogent as the Oil and Gas Academy. Becoming an industry-owned body has enabled the academy to focus entirely on the skills needs of the oil and gas industry.
In 2008 an independent report produced by Baker Tilly sampled four SSCs, including Cogent and its subsidiaries, the National Skills Academies for Nuclear and Process Industries. The independent report showed that the SSCs sampled were achieving around twenty times the value of the amount of funding they receive.
In August 2010 Cogent took on responsibility for the Life Sciences, providing the Life Sciences sector with ‘one voice’ to speak clearly to Government and Academia on skills issues. The Government made it clear to us that this remit is of great importance in ensuring the UK continues to grow a highly successful life sciences sector.
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.
The collaboration successfully generated targeted funding from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES), which was used to develop workforce skills in new and creative ways.
These exciting new funded workstreams built on existing Cogent 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.
This involvement has seen us working with employers in all parts of the science-using Sector to develop the existing workforce from technical skills, and knowledge-based learning through to process safety management and leadership. This work is also in the all important pre-employment arena around areas such as career pathways, industrial placements and the bringing together of industry and academia.
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 as well as a new Window on the World web portal for Life Sciences.
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.
We’ve been working hand in glove with employers for well over a decade, and the employer-ownership agenda has brought an even sharper focus to this close relationship, through the development of the employer-driven Science Industry Partnership (SIP).
This gives employers the driving seat on skills with the UK Government. Through the Employer Ownership of Skills (EOP) pilot, there is a very clear message to employers – be part of a system and funding change that will transform the vocational skills landscape.
The employer-led bid for the Science Industry Partnership for skills, 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.
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 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.
In 2015 the Cogent Group became Cogent Skills Cogent Skills, the new brand for all parts of the Cogent Group including the National Skills Academy Process Industries (NSAPI) and the Technical Apprenticeship Service.