By Alex Binkley
A wide variety of training and professional upgrading courses have long been a cornerstone of the services Canadian International Freight Forwarders Association has offered its members.
In keeping up with the times, and taking advantage of modern communications technology, CIFFA has teamed up with Schulich School of Business at York University to offer an online version of courses for its Professional Freight Forwarder designation, says Stephen McDermott, CIFFA’s Director of Education and Marketing.
When CIFFA proposed the Schulich courses be offered in class format over three days, some members said they couldn’t take the time off because of their work schedule. So the online version was prepared as an alternative. “It’s something new in our industry,” McDermott said. “It’s like an online webinar.” The online course is spread over eight weeks and the lessons are recorded by business professors at Schulich, McDermott said. “The participants have to take one lesson a week. It’s a participatory exercise in an interactive online platform. It works out to a time commitment of two to 2.5 hours a week to complete the course.”
Arnon Melo, Managing Director of MellowHawk Logistics of Mississauga, is one happy graduate of the on-line course in financial management for non-financial management executives. “It was the first one offered and I signed up for it as soon as I heard about it. It was great and a very positive experience. “The content of the course was very overwhelming at first but it took us along at slow steps,” he said. “I’m not an accountant but the course showed us to think about the kinds of details that accountants need to know to do their jobs. It was about understanding the process they go through. I needed it to have a better day-to-day understanding of the accounting side of the business. I also got great ideas for controlling costs and what we can do to assist accountants to do their job better.”
He’s interested in taking the other two Schulich courses available online — sales strategies for the non-sales manager and building a strong customer service base for organizations because they both deal with matters important to forwarders. Melo said he would recommend on-line courses to anyone who can’t take the time away from work to attend the classroom versions. “I can’t stay in a classroom for two or three days.”
He praised the education and training offerings from CIFFA. “They keep changing to keep up with the changing environment of freight forwarding,” he said. “You always get something relevant to the moment. I trust CIFFA to keep up with the business I’m in. They help you keep up with the compliance demands coming from governments and customers.” Many colleges across Canada that offer transportation and logistics courses use CIFFA books and manuals in their courses, Melo noted.
What does Melo look for when he’s hiring? “I hire on attitude. Our business is about customer service and anyone who’s committed can learn what’s required.” His employees have taken CIFFA training.
In addition to the Schulich courses, CIFFA offers a wide variety of courses and training in a mix of classroom, online and blended e-learning and classroom format. The courses are developed with the advice of CIFFA members to make sure they meet the needs of freight forwarders.
Among them are basic and advanced International Freight Forwarding courses. CIFFA also offers training across Canada on the transportation and handling of dangerous goods. It is accredited by the International Air Transport Association and International Civil Aviation Organization and complies with international and Transport Canada requirements. There are specific classes on shipping dangerous goods by air, road and water, shipping lithium batteries by air and workplace materials information systems. There are also several air cargo security training programs.
CIFFA also puts on workshops on topics of interest to freight forwarders. Those offered on a regular basis include cargo insurance, letters of credit, essentials of exporting, facing risk in business, cross-border shipping and understanding the free trade deal with Europe that is to come into force this summer. Upon request, CIFFA will stage the two to four hours courses at a company’s offices.
Students have to be sponsored by employers to take the courses. The freight forwarding industry has attracted a lot of interest from students interested in supply chain and logistics, which is good, McDermott said, “because there are lots of jobs available. A lot more women are taking the courses.” In addition, supply chain and logistics courses in Canada attract a lot of international students because many countries recognize the importance of importing and exporting.
Also with an aging population, the freight forwarding community has many people nearing retirement, and they have to be replaced. The forwarding community has also had to cope with training workers in the use of the new communications technologies introduced in recent years.
CIFFA has partnerships with colleges across that offer the CIFFA Certificate and/or CIFFA advanced certificate, McDermott said. “There are other schools that use our material, specifically our textbooks, as part of their international business programs.” Among the colleges are triOS College in Brampton, George Brown, Centennial, National Academy, Seneca, St. Clair College including ACE Acumen college, all in Toronto, Langara and Brighton Colleges in Vancouver, Eastern College in Halifax, Discovery College in Hong Kong and Academy Canada in Newfoundland. McDermott said, “This list expands each year, and we are currently in talks with two schools.”
Among the institutional offerings, Centennial has a one year supply chain management program, George Brown College a three year supply chain management program which includes two work term semesters, and Seneca offers international transportation, supply chain management and global logistics courses. Langara offers a supply chain and logistics diploma for university graduates.