The Growth of Formal Education in International Freight Forwarding

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Written by: Stephen McDermott, Director of Education and Marketing CIFFA.

The depth of knowledge required to perform “entry level” jobs in the freight forwarding industry is becoming more and more complex.  A simple search for jobs in logistics and supply chain displays an increased need for educated employees.  Logistics firms are hoping to find more than an “entry level” candidate.  They are more selective in hiring candidates who possess a broad range of knowledge, skill and experience.

Freight forwarders have a savvy client base.  So hiring the right people with the ability to use what was learned in school, and apply critical thinking skills into the role immediately is extremely important to an employer.  However, finding employees with this skill set is no easy task.

Freight forwarding companies have traditionally looked to their associations to provide their future leaders with certifications and designations.  For over 40 years, the Canadian International Freight Forwarders Association (CIFFA), has been emphasizing education as one of its pillars to supporting its members by providing them with certificates in freight forwarding, the Professional Freight Forwarder (PFF) designation, and much needed compliance training in dangerous goods shipping and cargo security.

However, the last decade has marked a shift in this trend.  Canadian colleges are increasingly offering international trade or supply chain programs within their business schools or programs, and this has presented an incredible boost of available talent for the changing and growing logistics industry.  Not only do these schools offer education, but many offer placement programs as well.

Debbie Vago Dunn, National Manager of Learning and Development at Kuehne+Nagel (CIFFA member), looks to work with college students enrolled in logistics and supply chain programs to find placements.

When asked about current hiring practices at Panalpina (CIFFA member), Flavia Iuston-Blair, Country Head of Human Resources Canada, said: “we are hiring more people right out of school, and they come to us with a solid knowledge base.  CIFFA connects us to these schools with the partnerships they have created, and we have hired some great people over the years to work at Panalpina.”

Currently, CIFFA partners with 15 colleges in Canada.  Students who enrol in CIFFA-partnered college programs are given the opportunity to graduate with a college diploma AND a CIFFA Certificate in international freight forwarding.  CIFFA ensures that competencies taught meet the needs of its members.  This is a considerable advantage for CIFFA’s 250+ member firms who often prefer to hire candidates with the CIFFA Certificate.

As a result of this emphasis on logistics education by colleges, global logistics companies are now in the enviable position of hiring their future leaders directly out of these programs.  Employment rates reported from a CIFFA-partnered college from those graduating in 2019 were as high as 85%.*

CIFFA’s college partners are provided with content created by experts with 20 to 40 years’ experience in multi modal transportation.  The material taught is also approved by FIATA, the International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations.  College instructors are encouraged to attain the CIFFA Certified Instructor (CCI) Designation.  Each student wishing to achieve the CIFFA Certificate is required to pass rigid CIFFA exams.

The future of logistics is bright, with more and more emphasis on lifelong learning, either at the college level or directly through industry associations.  CIFFA will continue to work with Canadian and international colleges to provide invaluable education to a sector that is hungry to hire professionals who can do it all.

*Numbers reported were collected in early 2019, and represent a program size of 59 students.  Many of the roles that students moved into were in global logistics but full data was not provided.