Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Freight Forwarders and Shipping Executives Dragged Into the Virtual World of Logistics

Face to Face Training Now Available Online - and Probably Here to Stay
Shipping News Feature

UK – With much of the senior management of our major logistics and other companies and corporations associated with the shipping profession for too long consisting of, shall we say, gentlemen of a certain age, the idea of video conferencing has often been viewed as an anathema and no substitute to the look in the eye and the firm handshake.

Now of course the world has turned and, as with any lately converted disciples, enthusiasm for the available technology is praised as the saviour of business as though to make up for lost time. Now an array of available web based platforms is enabling hitherto reluctant executives to meet regularly with colleagues and customers, virtually face to face, and without the expense accounts drained by travel and entertainment costs.

The fact that now every sector of the industry has converted swiftly to the use of the new technology, damascene disciples or otherwise, has made it possible to use it for purposes hitherto available but deemed impractical or else unpopular for a variety of reasons. Yesterday we told how education on line for kids via a quorum of logistics interests was now available to help them learn about the profession, and the change in attitude, coupled with the restrictions, has now ensured there has been a sea change in the thinking of adults in the industry also seeking instruction.

Taking advantage of this, as from June 1 the British International Freight Association (BIFA) is taking its comprehensive industry training programme online, utilising web-based video conferencing as its technology of choice. Initially, the online training programme will consist of 18 freight and customs-related topics spread over nine modules, with more subjects to be added in time.

All of the interactive online training will feature live trainers with over 25 years freight and customs experience, and delegates will receive workbooks for each module. Director General, Robert Keen explains the revised situation thus:

“Once lockdown measures started, BIFA's face-to-face training, which has received really positive feedback for its interactive nature, came to a halt. The question for us, was: ‘How could we replicate that online?’ Over the past month, our four-strong training team has been modifying the course content so that it can be delivered by video conferencing in a virtual classroom setting.

“Time was on our side, as we didn’t need to have it ready the next day, there were more pressing issues for our members, so it was more about getting it right and adapting our materials for web-based delivery. All the topics are short sessions, not designed to be delivered in one day, so they are very adaptable, which we think is more suitable for business. We could also tailor a package specifically for members, combining the different modules.”

In 2019, BIFA’s freight and customs training activities continued to be popular and achieved a record number of courses, with BTEC course numbers, in particular, showing a four-fold increase, whilst 271 delegates achieved BTEC diplomas. Brexit was a major reason for the increase in numbers, especially with three phases of Government grant funding being made available to help educate large numbers with Customs declaration knowledge.

To support this demand, BIFA also launched an eLearning course in March last year, which was developed to provide support and information for anyone that wants to gain a better understanding of Customs regimes and how to complete a Customs declaration. The wholly online digital course has 11 modules in total and proved incredibly popular, with 1,298 delegates undertaking the online Customs Declaration Training in 2019. Keen adds:

“In order to keep up this success in training activities during the unprecedented Covid-19 crisis, we have made the decision to replicate almost our entire course range and deliver it via video conferencing.

“The good news is that government guidance allows furloughed employees to engage in training, provided that whilst undertaking the training the employee does not provide service to, or generate revenue for, or on behalf of their organisation. Furloughed employees should be encouraged to consider BIFA's online training opportunities.”

Since joining as BIFA training development manager over four years ago Carl Hobbis has introduced a variety of innovative schemes and methods, not least the successful BIFA Young Forwarders Network, sadly of course currently suspended during the pandemic, and he views the change to eLearning as a key move, saying:

“We see these courses being a permanent part of our training calendar in the future. One of the outcomes of the Covid-19 pandemic is that people have embraced web-based solutions due to remote working, so I feel that people will think twice about travelling for meetings and classroom training in the future. Whilst it is difficult to beat a live face-to-face session with a trainer, this hybrid solution is much better that solo eLearning, or a webinar.”