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With the Chamber’s international trade training and services manager Julie Whiting

What is the background to the the International Trade Operations and Procedures (ITOPS) qualification?

We wanted a programme that was practical and relevant to the industry that could be achieved in a short timescale of four months. At the time, there wasn’t an international trade programme in the market that focused on all aspects of international trade administration, movement of goods and payment. The emphasis is on teaching delegates how and why a procedure is in place to guarantee legal compliance and cost-effective trading.

The motivation for the course was that most people who work in international trade didn’t “choose” this industry as a career option. Many employees had no formal training and followed existing procedures, which were in many cases incorrect.

All elements of the programme are taught to follow the highest industry standards.

What does the programme involve?

The course delivery is over eight half day workshops and candidates complete an online portfolio within four months. It is a development programme – there is no exam, instead based on the collection of evidence, which underpins a candidate’s understanding and practical application of procedures.

The award covers the five main elements of export administration:

  • Administration procedures
  • Export documentation
  • Customs, excise and other legal requirements
  • Export payments
  • Dispatch and shipping

What type of support do delegates receive throughout the course?

Every candidate has access to support from 10 industry professionals, all of whom are in senior positions within their respective companies and with more than 150 years’ experience in international trade collectively.

At the first workshop, each candidate is allocated an assessor and mentor who will support them throughout the whole programme.

Are there any other partners involved?

Kranlee Logistics sponsors the East Midlands Chamber ITOPS course. It supports delegates on one of the ITOPS workshops and by way of a freight forwarder placement, where candidates learn all about the requirements when moving goods internationally. Insights are provided into how air and sea cargo is handled, as well as the building of freight pricing and how customs declarations are completed.

All delegates also have access to documentary software throughout the programme provided by Just Trade.

Why is the ITOPS such an important part of the Chamber’s international trade support offer?

Steve Townsley, owner of Fidelitas Training, and I had the idea to write a practical international trade qualification 14 years ago. This is now the Chamber’s flagship international trade course and has raised the profile of the support can provide businesses trading internationally or entering new markets.

Having fallen into international trade myself by accident over 30 years ago, I understand the importance of relevant training.

What are the advantages for organisations that enrol team members in the ITOPS qualification?

Organisations gain from having employees who feel motivated and supported in their job role with correct knowledge on international trade procedures.

Candidates also feel empowered to make improvements to procedures, which in some cases have resulted in major cost savings for the business. One business saved over £250,000 by changing procedures identified during the programme.

It also helps companies adapt to the ever-changing demands of trading internationally. The course reflects these changes, such as to Incoterms rules and Brexit. Many businesses now have ITOPS as a qualification requirement when recruiting new staff.

How many people have successfully completed the course and what benefits have they received personally?

More than 1,400 delegates have achieved the ITOPS award – mostly at merit or distinction grades.

There is a minimal drop-out rate, with over 95% achieving the qualification. The ITOPS award is a double-certificated, nationally-recognised qualification. Upon completion, candidates are awarded an ITOPS certificate and the British Chambers of Commerce Foundation Award in International Trade.

Their confidence in their job role has improved as they now understand the implications of why they are being asked to complete wide-ranging functions in order to ship their goods overseas without incurring additional charges and delays. There is also an improvement in future career prospects.

To get in touch with Julie about your international trade training requirements, email