The British International Freight Association (BIFA), the trade association that represents UK freight forwarding and logistics companies, says that it hopes the package of measures unveiled by HMRC recently to accelerate growth of the UK’s customs intermediary sector is successful.
Director general, Robert Keen says: “Whilst we welcome the additional funding, as we did when the first two rounds of funding were announced, we can only keep our fingers crossed that it produces the thousands of additional customs experts that the government agrees will be needed come January 1 2021.
“During our regular meetings with both HMRC and HM Treasury, BIFA has highlighted the concerns of our members regarding the capability of the Customs brokerage sector to increase capacity, at a time when that sector already faces a huge shortage of staff of suitable quality.
“We have regularly emphasised that it could take up to a year to train staff to be fully conversant to prepare a range of basic Customs declarations, even if there was a sufficient number of trainers to train those staff, as well as relevant courses for them to attend.
“Clearly the Government is finally getting the message that increased capacity in this sector will be important whatever our future relationship with the EU.”
The scheme represents a new round of funding for employee training and IT improvements for customs intermediaries, traders and hauliers that make customs declarations to help them prepare ahead on January 1 2021.
BIFA says the new funding could be used to support a business that is extending and taking on new staff, or to help train an existing employee to start completing customs declarations for the company.
Training can be delivered by an external provider, or an in-house trainer.
As one of the largest providers of Customs-related training courses, BIFA decided to replicate almost its entire course range and deliver it via video conferencing, due to the Covid-19 crisis preventing face-to-face training.
Keen concludes: “Government guidance allows furloughed employees to engage in training, provided that whilst undertaking the training the employee does not provide service to, or generate revenue for, or on behalf of, their organisation.
“Hence, we are encouraging members that have furloughed employees to take advantage of the additional funding that has been made available by applying for it to finance some of BIFA’s online Customs training opportunities for those employees, as well as employees that have not been furloughed.”
BIFA understands that HMRC will unveil more details in due course and is reminding its members that applications for the new funding will be open from July 2020.