BLOG: Certification in Humanitarian Logistics - 10th Anniversary
Sep 14, 2016
Category: General / Posted by: pjones
Mitsuko Mizushima reflects on the impact of the Fritz/CILT certification programme on professionalism within humanitarian logistics
A decade ago, the refrain that we heard from humanitarian logisticians was the absence of professionalism in the logistics function. A lack of recognition by programme staff and senior management in aid agencies meant that logisticians were rarely included in the planning stages of a humanitarian response.
In the field, short-term contracts translated into very high turnover among logisticians, limiting institutional knowledge and learning. The cumulative result of all of these factors was that logistics often remained isolated from other functions, leading to the suboptimisation of operational efficiency and effectiveness.
It was no surprise that logisticians from global, national and regional organisations called for a knowledge-based field with a clear career track, collaboration with peers across organisations and the ability to demonstrate the value of logistics with unambiguous measures and metrics that tie in with organisational strategy. It was also clear that progressive training and a standardised, externally recognised certification programme was needed.
At the 2004 Humanitarian Logistics Conference, it was decided that a systematic exploration of the path to a sector-wide training and certification programme was needed. In response, Fritz Institute established an advisory committee on humanitarian logistics Courses, training and certification that included senior logistics representatives from the UN’s World Food Programme, UNICEF, UNHCR, Oxfam UK, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Holland, Erasmus University and the private sector.
This group resolved to understand existing training approaches within their organisations and from universities and training institutes. The first step was to decide on a common definition of logistics, which became: ‘the process of planning, implementing and controlling the efficient, cost-effective flow and storage of goods and materials, as well as related information, from point of origin to point of consumption for the purpose of meeting the end beneficiary’s requirements’.
Fritz Institute, in conjunction with Erasmus University and APICS, a widely recognised training and certification body for commercial logistics, conducted a survey of approximately 300 logisticians at the field, regional and headquarters levels of major humanitarian organisations. The purpose was to identify the providers of logistics training in the sector, explore what training programmes existed and to list the various training methods used. Respondents to the survey represented a variety of organisations including: ADRA, American Red Cross, CRS, DFID, MSF (Holland and France), ICRC, IFRC, IMC, IRC, WFP, UNHCR and UNICEF.
Over 90% of the respondents indicated that they felt training was directly linked to performance on the job and that standardised training would be useful to the field. However, only 73% of the respondents had access to any logistics training, with 27% indicating no such access. For those with access, training was most often provided by co-workers on the job or by in-house training staff. Respondents also noted that such training tended to be non-standardised, with the content largely dependent on who the trainer happened to be.
Particularly interesting were the responses to the open-ended question on perceived gaps in logistics training. It was clear that there was a longing for more systematic and standardised training. The majority of respondents felt that taking training into the certification realm and setting community-wide skills standards would professionalise the field, provide quality assurance, facilitate consistency of service and be helpful in decision criteria for recruitment. Therefore it was not surprising that respondents were frustrated by factors such as lack of consistency in training, lack of ways to measure the effectiveness of training, lack of funding for training and lack of specific training in humanitarian logistics. Suggestions for improvements included collaboration with local universities, associations and training institutes.
In 2005, Fritz Institute commissioned CILT(UK) to develop the first in a series of qualifications designed specifically for humanitarian logisticians: Certification in Humanitarian Logistics (CHL). CILT presented a proposal to develop a competence-based qualification that would be centred on a reality-based scenario. The programme was designed to be delivered by distance learning, with each learner supported by an online coach, and having to demonstrate the application of skills rather than taking an exam.
For the programme to be realistic and relevant, a team of senior logisticians and experts representing the primary actors in humanitarian logistics defined the required competencies of the graduates. Course content was then built to ensure development of the agreed competencies through performing tasks. At the start of the course, the students are inserted into a reality-based scenario in which they have to advise on and manage supply chain and logistics functions. CHL is now delivered in English and French.
In 2008, we launched the Certification of Humanitarian Supply Chain Management (CHSCM), followed by the Certification in Humanitarian Medical Logistics Practices (Medlog). The benefits of the certification programme include:
• Cost-effective delivery and increased efficiency substantiated by reliable metrics
• Improved communication and co-operation across agencies and with donors, as a result of standardised catalogues, terminology and processes
• Increased career mobility and job satisfaction
• A pool of trained logisticians whose skills have been externally verified, providing agencies and donors with greater hiring flexibility and options
Today, the programme continues as an interagency, private-public collaboration. It is delivered through a three-way partnership with the programme: Fritz Institute is its sponsor; CILT(UK) manages the programme and is the awarding organisation; and Logistics Learning Alliance (LLA) is the Approved Centre, providing one-to-one coaching for the learners.
In the 10 years since the programme was launched, over 2,000 students have enrolled and nearly 800 students have graduated, some from multiple programmes. In 2011, it won the European Supply Chain Excellence Award for Training & Professional Development.
The certification programme continues to be an effective and relevant option for the humanitarian logistics sector, as it faces unprecedented challenges due to the increase in natural and manmade emergencies.