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LBBJ: And that training, learning how to use those technologies, can be helpful in their career path, whether it is global logistics or any position that requires communication across multiple platforms.
Venieris: That's right. I always judge what is happening in the industry by my students because the program is well defined. Anyone who has an interest in port-related activities or logistics or trade, and wants training, they come across this eventually. What they learn is how it all ties together. I remember when we developed the program, we offered it through service providers. That would be a trucker, a railroad, all the folks that move the freight. We also had in the first several years many attorneys take the class because they said, "If I need to represent people, I need to understand how it works." Then we suddenly found IT folks, and that goes to what you said. One of the important things in the goods movement industry is the concept of transparency, or visibility. We can track a package when we go to the post office. UPS has been doing this for a long time. Now we want to do this with the big shipments, to the extent it can be done. Information technology is unbelievably important.
LBBJ: In terms of training the workforce, how does CITT track success?
Venieris: Well, obviously people keep coming. We had our anniversary in January – 15 years. Well over 1,200 people have gone through the program, and at least 1,000 have earned a professional designation. In terms of tracking, we try to find out when people sign up for the program how they learned about it. That is a component. Most of the trade-related associations, like the L.A. Transportation Club, the Harbor Transportation Club, Women in International Trade, the IBA, give us almost all of their scholarships. I think the GLS program gets more scholarships than any other program on campus, so that means that the industry appreciates the value of what we have to offer. Last semester, our students got $50,000 in scholarships from trade associations. When I ask them why they select our students, they say that this is the way they invest in their industry versus something else.
LBBJ: How has CITT helped the Long Beach community understand the level of impact trade and transportation has on jobs and the local economy?
Venieris: I would think in many ways. Here is an example. We get a call in, one of many, and somebody says, "You know, I see cranes down at the port. What do I need to do to get a job there?" I say, "You've called the right place. If you take this program, you will see where your fit is." Many people do that. It is also because of our relationship and our partnership with the industry. I make a point to attend all the industry events. I'm on various boards. So I hear, and I know, what the challenges are in the industry.
In addition to the programs we offer, we do customized training. For example, we offer customized training for Caltrans planners here, in the Port of L.A. and in Oakland. We take the show on the road. We also do customized training for businesses on site. We have HazMat (hazardous materials) training, seminars for international delegations and more. There's a new free trade agreement with Korea; people want to know about it, so we put together a seminar for September 27.
LBBJ: You are also the deputy director of the METRANS Transportation Center, a partnership of CSULB and USC, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Transportation. What projects is the center currently focused on?
Venieris: METRANS and CITT have a funding and outreach partnership. We bring people together to teach and explain. I happen to run the CITT, but it is a partnership of what is now 24 people who get together monthly. For the past 12 years, the policy and steering committee of the center has held monthly meetings to discuss what the issue of the industry is, what is hot right now. From there, we move toward an agenda of a town hall meeting or point-counterpoint event. This started out to attract international longshore and warehouse unions. We have done 10 town hall meetings. At the first town hall meeting, we had about 3,000 people show up on campus. It was the first time that union activities were brought in, together with management, into an educational setting. The discussions are unbelievably informative for me, who needs to learn what's going on in the industry, what we need to teach, because everyone comes with a different perspective.
Now we've started with our point-counterpoint events, which feature a video made through collaboration between industry representatives and the university's advanced media production center. The first point-counterpoint forum focused on the Panama Canal, and the video produced for the event is called "Panama Canal Expansion: The Battle for Jobs and Cargo." The film has earned various awards and acknowledgements, and is available on YouTube.
LBBJ: Let's talk about international trade. Do you think the ports of LB and LA need to expand their trading partners?
Venieris: The Port of Long Beach is interested in attracting ocean carriers to bring the goods, particularly from the Pacific Rim or South America, for supportive entry and then deliver it to different parts of the United States. So there is always going to be a lot of consumption going on east of the Rockies, because it makes sense to bring in the goods.
The big question is discretionary cargo: do we want it or not? There are many who say we cannot afford losing jobs, and we would be losing jobs if we do not have the discretionary cargos. Others say that it is polluting our area, so we don't want more goods coming in. Then there are people who say it is more demanding on your health not having a job than many other things. So there is always this issue of whether we really understand the extent, if we will be a disservice if we do not attract more freight coming in. Many, including myself, believe this port is extremely well positioned to not lose cargo, but not enough to relax over it.
LBBJ: Can you paint a picture of what Long Beach might be like if the port did not exist?
Venieris: It would be very different. In general, it's kind of an almost impossible question to ask, because if you didn't have the port, we would have something else. I think we know that the port complex is an incredible economic engine, and I would hope that people learn about it because it is so easy to make a decision not knowing how it ties together. There are many other cities up and down the coast that do something different, but this is a big thriving engine for many and we need to be very vigilant in figuring out what we can do to keep it going at times like this.
LBBJ: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Venieris: We do workforce development, and surely my area is focused on a particular industry. Being part of the college of continuing education is a tremendous effort to the extent that we all know how we do training, how to form partnerships, how we bring the university out into the community. I feel fortunate to work here and draw on the university resources that we have to support the needs of our business and beyond. Credit for our success goes to the many men and women, who serve and served on our advisory committees, or committed teaching. All our instructors are busy and successful industry leaders. Giving their time, knowledge, experience and talents in the classroom and beyond speaks to their passion for the work they do and their desire to support education and give back to their industry.
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