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Cargo classroom

Helen Massy-Beresford discovers how industry bodies and companies are tackling the long-term challenge of maintaining and improving the skills of air cargo employees in a rapidly changing environment

In a complex, global industry like air cargo, ensuring the skills of employees in all areas of the business are up to scratch is vital in keeping goods moving – and with initiatives such as e-freight and improved tracking of shipments changing the way operators do business, it is more important than ever.

Education and training together form one of the pillars of The International Air Cargo Association (TIACA) and the industry body demonstrated its commitment during its recent Executive Summit in Miami in October, where it showcased its latest training and development efforts during a panel entitled Air Cargo Leaders of the Future.

Charles Edwards, Director – Logistics Strategy, North Carolina Department of Transportation and Chairman of TIACA’s Education and Research Committee, who hosted the panel, presented the results of an ongoing air cargo internship initiative led by Miami Airport, with Atlas Air, Freightos and Aeropost collaborating.

That was the second such internship, following a launch event in February where young professionals from six companies in the Netherlands – Air France KLM Martinair Cargo, Jan de Rijk Logistics, Tosoh Corporation, Valeant Pharmaceuticals International, Agility and Swissport toured each other’s sites to gain a better understanding of processes and explore new ways of collaboration across the air cargo supply chain.

“This initiative will hopefully be the start of many more to follow, where we can develop young talent to be the leaders of tomorrow,” said Sebastiaan Scholte, Chief Executive Officer, Jan de Rijk Logistics, and Vice Chairman of TIACA, at the time. “It is more and more difficult to discover and develop talent, especially in small and medium sized companies.”

Edwards believes efforts to improve the training on offer in the air cargo sector are badly needed: “Non-transport companies and sectors are far ahead in terms of education and training – including lifelong training. This is especially true for manufacturers who understand that the dynamics of their industry is changing so quickly. They recognise the need for staff with skills formerly unknown on the shop floor. These same companies are embracing technologies that are diminishing the ‘added-value’ of transport services, especially asset-light businesses.”

The association is doing its best to help its members replicate this flexibility and openness to on-the-job learning.

TIACA offers a Professional Development Program aimed at growing management skills for air cargo professionals, which is designed by Strategic Aviation Solutions International (SASI). The most recent workshop took place in Anchorage, Alaska in August.

Stan Wraight, President and Chief Executive Officer, Strategic Aviation Solutions International says better communication between the different players in the logistics supply chain is one of the major benefits of the training.

“The programme was put together with the objective of encouraging young professionals to stay in the business, get involved and understand what an exciting career could be had in logistics. TIACA members are very diverse, they cover the whole spectrum of the industry, and the idea was that they would send up-and-coming people who would benefit from learning what the logistics chain is all about,” Wraight says.

Participants in the interactive workshop gain an appreciation of the entire air cargo supply chain and the component sectors through discussions, practical advice and insight.

“By having people in the room from different disciplines – ground handlers, freight forwarders, trucking company employees – what you get is a dialogue starting ... People started to realise that if they communicated better across these disciplines they could understand how to do something better to improve the overall product that they are offering.”

It’s not just industry organisations that are taking training seriously – individual companies are increasingly recognising that keeping employees’ skills well-honed is good for business. >>

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