Questions and answers

This week, we feature an interview with FLA Mentor Charles Dey, nominated by the South African Association of Freight Forwarders -SAAFF-, who will talk with us about some of his trials and triumphs talent consultant, as well as his latest projects and views of education and training in the area of International Supply Chain and Logistics Management. Welcome, Charles!


Why did you decide to become an FLA mentor?

We are sitting on a youth time bomb. Over 24% of the world’s population is aged between 15 and 29. Most of these approximately 1.7 billion people live in developing countries and are unemployable due to lack of skills. At the same time there are severe shortages of people who are capable of developing end to end supply chain solutions.

The FLA represents a real opportunity to address this problem and hence my decision to become an FLA mentor.


1. What is your background before you became an FLA mentor?

After 19 years of freight forwarding operational and management experience, I followed my passion for education and training by becoming the Executive Director of the newly formed Forwarding and Clearing Sector of the Maritime Industry Training Board in 1994.

When the FIATA Diploma minimum criteria were released in 1996, South Africa become one of the first countries in the world to have its courses validated by the FIATA ABVT for the award of that qualification. It was an exciting experience to have been a member of the two man South African delegation which made the representations to the FIATA ABVT which resulted in this validation. After that I was invited to join the ABVT on which I served for 4 years.

Back in South Africa, I led the teams who were responsible for building the unit standards based qualification structure for South Africa’s Forwarding and Clearing industry and for registering those qualifications on this country’s National Qualifications Framework.

Another world first for South Africa occurred in 2001 when, with a partner, I started Global Trade Training, the first provider in the world to offer training towards the FIATA Diploma via eLearning. This was a valuable experience for me: it strongly motivated to me develop a knowledge and understanding of all aspects of this exciting methodology, in particular recent developments in gamification and flipped classroom techniques.

As an independent consultant, I was responsible for the development and accreditation of an in house academy for one of South Africa’s leading 3rd Party Logistics providers, Bidvest Panalpina Logistics. It was a proud moment when one of my mentees, Fortunate Mboweni, became the first Africa born African to win the FIATA Young Freight Forwarder of the Year Award in 2014.

In recognition of the inextricable link between marketing and supply chain management I was recently appointed Head of Faculty: Supply Chain Management, at the Institute of Marketing Management to enable that organisation to incorporate supply chain management philosophy and methodologies into its offerings.


2. How much eLearning do you use?

I have been involved in the development of eLearning courses since 2001 and am doing everything possible to follow trends in this field and to incorporate best eLearning and blended learning practices into my vocational training work.


3. How many students do you have per year?

In South Africa approximately 600 to 800 students per year are enrolled in vocational courses which are focussed on 3rd party international logistics services provision. A much greater number study supply chain management and industrial engineering at universities.


4. What is your strategy to research the teaching method for relaying the required information to students?

By using a storyboarding process to plan every twist and turn of each eLearning course, it makes for highly efficient eLearning design and development. This helps to select the methodology best suited to achieve maximum learner engagement, the transfer of skills and the delivery of media rich eLearning experiences.


5. Do you take students who are beginners to forwarding or only in a form of further education (or both)?

Certain individuals are taken from school and these undergo an apprenticeship in which they learn the theory and practise of 3rd party international logistics services provision and customs compliance. Some of these go on to qualify for the FIATA Diploma. Others are taken into employment from university to carry out specific, higher level functions. In this regard there is an increasing need for qualified supply chain and industrial engineers.


6. In your country, to become a forwarder what courses do you have to go on and how long does it take to complete?

In South Africa we no longer have freight forwarders, only 3rd party international logistics services providers.

There are no legal requirements to hold any formal qualification to practise as a 3rd party international logistics services provider in South Africa, although there is legislation being enacted which will make it compulsory for those involved in Customs broking activities to have passed an examination administered by Customs.

In order to obtain the FIATA Diploma in South Africa it is necessary to obtain the two national qualifications referred to above. This takes a minimum of one year each. Students then need to undergo a supplementary course of approximately 6 to 8 weeks. The time taken to complete these courses counts towards the minimum experience required for the FIATA Diploma.


7. When was it realised that education was required in forwarding?

The South African Association of Freight Forwarders implemented a one year Customs Affairs course in 1991, followed by a two year Forwarding Practice course in 1993. It was these courses which were validated for the award of the FIATA Diploma in 1996.


8. How do you choose the lecturers/trainers that teach the students?

Trainers are selected from experienced subject matter experts who are then encouraged to undergo further training in facilitation, assessment and moderation.


9. What are the key success factors for a good training program?

  1. Proper planning, where storyboarding is an essential tool in planning eLearning courses.

  2. In a diverse population as that being targeted by FLA, courses must be created so as to be applicable to all participants, possibly by writing specific area modules from which students can choose;

  3. In the vocational training environment, courses need to be aligned to the competency profiles of the occupations and jobs for which those courses are intended to prepare students;

  4. Courses must be designed so that the learning process is both engaging and interactive: in eLearning we need to move away from putting the student in a room with only the keyboard and monitor to learn from;

  5. Facilitation, coaching and mentoring are essential parts of learning and therefore eLearning courses must blend in elements in which the engagement of students with facilitators, coaches and mentors are requirements;

  6. Courses need to be fun, both in their content and their methodology: this is where gamification comes into its own;

  7. For vocational training to be cost effective, pre assessment needs to take place so that training addresses specific skills gaps: it is unnecessary for everybody to undergo the same training in order to achieve the desired levels of performance or qualification;

  8. At the same time there needs to be an opportunity for those who have gained their skills and knowledge through experience to have these recognised as elements towards the attainment of formal qualifications;

  9. In addition to the qualifications awarded by the provider, there should also be a framework of professional recognition for the acquisition of professional designations at different levels of qualification and contribution to the profession;

  10. In order for continuous improvement to take place, courses need to be evaluated at different stages: how students reacted to the training, what students have learned, the extent to which students can apply the concepts, processes and procedures which were taught and the benefits of the course to the student employer as measured by business results.


10. Between soft skills and technical training is freight logistics - which is important? 

To thrive in today’s innovation-driven economy, workers need a different mix of skills from those needed in the past. In addition to the technical skills such as logistics, transport, warehousing and statutory compliance, they need competencies like collaboration, creativity and problem-solving, and character qualities like persistence, curiosity and initiative.


It’s not a question of and/ or as regards vocational training, it’s a question of and/ and.


11. And what are your views about inducting both? And which one first? 

Any course which is focussed on the world of work needs to impart both types of competency and in my view the two should be integrated.


12. What kind of positions in the logistics industry are you preparing your students to work in?

It depends on the types of course: in South Africa we generally train school leavers to carry out the more routine functions and then progress them, via the FIATA Higher Diploma in Supply Chain Management, into higher level positions.


13. How do you see the future of training in logistics progressing in the future?

To quote Fortunate Mboweni, winner of the 2014 Young Freight Forwarder of the Year Award, “For as long as we see ourselves as movers of cargo we will be regarded as providers of a commodity by the market and it will the cheapest who always wins. As soon as we can develop into the providers of end to end supply chain solutions, that’s when we add real value and that’s where this industry can thrive. Key to this evolution is a massive upgrading of our skills.”

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects logistics job growth of 22 percent from 2012-2022, more than double the average rate of the 30 highest growth occupations. Meanwhile, Baby Boomer retirement continues to deplete the ranks of experienced supply chain professionals. Some observers believe the demand for supply chain professionals might now exceed supply by a six-to-one ratio.

All of these constraints can be addressed by training.

With these considerations in mind it is clear that there will be a growing demand for high quality, relevant, focused and fun training in supply chain management and logistics.


14. What strikes you the most about FLA?

Implemented effectively, FLA could become a significant game changer in the evolution of this industry from movers of cargo to providers of end to end supply chain solutions by meeting the significant skills needs of FIATA members into the future.

This will however demand much in terms of time, talent and dedication from those involved.

FLA provides an opportunity to leave a lasting legacy of human development.