At a time when much of the European and North American vehicle logistics industry is still recovering from the harsh cuts in capacity and staff following the global downturn, there have been worries on both sides of the Atlantic over the potential for looming shortages not only in future transport assets but also for skilled staff. 
In Europe, ECG president Costantino Baldissara has warned that the sector will need at least €3 billion ($3.7 billion) to replace capacity, but will also need to be vigilant in maintaining the quality of managers and professionals to serve the automotive sector. In the US, meanwhile, concerns were voiced at the recent Finished Vehicle Logistics North America conference over the drivers and management skills that providers are struggling to meet to stay competitive (read more here).
But despite an industry that has been accused at times of not being forward looking enough, one positive example of how the European sector continues to refresh and maintain the skills of its vehicle logistics managers has been the ECG Academy and its Certified Automobile Logistician course, which begun in 2006 and is once again taking places for its next programme, which runs from October 2010 to May 2011.
The course takes place over 19 days divided into six modules, each at a different locations across Europe, covering practice-oriented training and featuring input from both academic staff and senior practicing logistics professionals. The preliminary schedule will see students doing modules in Berlin, Bremen, Zaragoza, Turin, Prague and Warsaw.
The course has so far seen 83 participants from 45 different companies, including carmakers and logistics service providers. Past participants have praised the course for its diversity of subject material as well as participants from both different parts of Europe as well as both sides of the negotiating table.
“We had participants from all over Europe, all with different backgrounds, positions and experiences,” said Ceren Buyruk, assistant general manager at Turkey’s ANT Lojistik, who was part of the first group of graduates in 2007. “It was an excellent opportunity to build a good network…we had many group studies which helped us know each other better and combine our experiences and knowledge to deal with the goals of the projects assigned.
“Now I can say that I have a better view of what an OEM looks for through a tender process or what challenges a ro-ro vessel planner faces when trying to establish a new line,” continued Buyruk. “The course helped us to have overall a better understanding of what each element in the automotive logistics supply chain is there for.”
Graduates have also praised the course for its practice-oriented nature, applying real industry scenarios and case studies as opposed to the rarefied air of the classroom. “The ECG Academy course is indeed a practice-oriented one,” confirmed Piotr Firak, TLA transport manager at Gefco Poland, and one of this year’s graduates. “It includes a lot of exercises during the training and active learning at the operational site, for example, a one-day visit to Bremerhaven port in order to present and describe operational processes.”
Other locations visited during past modules include Turin with Fiat, Iveco and car carrier trailer manufacturer Rolfo; Rotterdam Car terminal with terminal operator Broekman and Prague with Toyota, PSA and Gefco.
This experience and the on-site visits are crucial to an understanding of the co-modality now defining the industry, according to another of this year’s graduates, Filippo Rizzi Ariani, who works in Grimaldi’s Commercial Department. Ariani started the course looking to add rail and road modes to his maritime knowledge but came out with even more.
“Nowadays, co-modality is the basis of the global transportation business, thus it is extremely important to improve your own profile with a larger comprehension of the sector. This expectation was totally fulfilled in many ways: by several visits to key players during their on-going operations, by the continuous brainstorming with colleagues coming from land transportation companies and by the lessons and intervention of a lot of sector executives.”
It is this wider understanding of the sector that Ariani said has already started to enhance his day-to-day work, especially when called upon to analyse a tender where road transporters can be competitors as well as partners.
While many of the students on the course have been relatively young managers, the course is also intended for those later in their career on the lookout for new ideas. As graduate David Lorenèiè, managing director, BLG CarShipping Koper made clear, the course could be interesting for older logisticians who “have all the practical knowledge but not theory or a modern view of logistics”.
The course, which costs €8,925, may not an investment that many companies are willing to take in the current climate. But past and recent graduated both agree that it is worth the price. 
“I am sure that such a course is very good investment for the company, especially in a time of crisis when you have to constantly look for new ideas, synergies and solutions,” said Firak. “For participants it is a turning point in their career and it allows to open new possibilities for professional development.”
Buyruk, who since completing the course has switched companies and is now the shared founder of a new carrier, agrees that the course is worth the outlay. “When compared with other graduate or certificate programs, this one is the best fit for one that is intended to build a career in automotive logistics. Overall I definitely believe that the course represents good value for money,” she said.
An application form and further information for the course is available from the ECG’s website here  and submissions will be accepted up to the start of the course in October.