Bridging the Gap: addressing the skills shortage in global Trade Compliance

Bridging the Gap: addressing the skills shortage in global Trade Compliance

Demand for trade compliance skills continues to soar globally and firms need to act fast, in order to futureproof their teams and ensure that they aren’t left with a critical skills gap.


Why is there a skills gap?

Global trade has become increasingly complex and volatile. Geopolitical instabilities, regulatory changes, sanctions, civil unrest, legal debates and rising fuel costs—these are just a few of the issues that global trade compliance professionals must face into on a regular basis. This rapid increase in job responsibilities and pressures has had two major knock-on effects.


1. Trade Compliance professionals are over-burdened

We are speaking to more and more candidates who report increasing concern with how much is expected of them. Workload levels for individuals are rising to potentially unsustainable levels and the scope of this work is broadening. This is leading to trade compliance departments realising that they need to spread the load to help retain their staff by building out their teams.

On top of this, some say they aren’t receiving adequate training or support, leaving them feeling “out of their depth” - especially given the constantly evolving geopolitical climate along with the rise in use of advanced technology.

This leads us nicely to the second point…

2. Training and Development needs an overhaul

Appointing highly skilled Trade Compliance people has always been challenging, as there is little to no specific academic route for people to purposefully carve out a career in trade compliance; people typically “fall into it”. While it’s perfectly usual for learning to happen “on the job”, given the increasing complexity of the role and the escalating impact of risk, it is highly likely that we’ll see more standardised training offered to ensure anyone embarking on a trade compliance career is equipped with the right skills and knowledge from the outset, enabling them to flourish in their roles.

However, for now, providing sufficient training to upskill existing team members is critical for retaining good trade compliance professionals.


Strategies to address the skills gap

To bridge the skills gap in global trade compliance, companies should consider the following:

  • Invest in Continuous Learning and Training

Provide ongoing training and development programmes for existing staff to keep them updated on the latest trade regulations and technologies.

Encourage employees to pursue relevant certifications, such as Certified Customs Specialist (CCS) or Certified Global Business Professional (CGBP), to enhance their knowledge and skills.

  • Foster a Learning Culture

Cultivate a culture of continuous learning within your organisation. Encourage employees to seek out new information, and share their knowledge and experience with their colleagues.

  • Review your tech stack

Trade compliance software and automation tools can streamline processes and greatly reduce administrative workloads, freeing up more time for your team to focus on the critical tasks.

  • Cross-Training

Encourage cross-training within your compliance team to ensure that more than one person can handle critical tasks. This mitigates the risk of knowledge gaps if someone leaves the company.

  • Hire and retain the best talent

Companies can either keep adding to the workload of their team and risk driving individuals out, or they can add to the team and help spread the load. With the skills gap widening, it’s imperative that firms consider candidates which don’t necessarily tick all the boxes, but who demonstrate a willingness to learn.  There’s no getting away from it: salaries need to be competitive, along with other sought-after perks, such as flexible working.


The skills gap in global trade compliance poses a significant challenge for companies engaged in international trade. However, by investing in continuous learning and training, fostering a learning culture, hiring and retaining top talent, adopting the right technology and cross-training, this gap can effectively be addressed.

Embracing these strategies will significantly bolster your team and ultimately enable your organisation to succeed in seizing opportunities in international markets.