Video: David Widdowson explains how you can make the most of the Customs Academy

Wed 16 Oct 2019
Posted by: William Barns-Graham

Ahead of the launch of the UK’s first online Customs Academy, we spoke to several experts in the field about the importance of professional Customs skills and knowledge.

In this video, we  to David Widdowson AM, the Dean of the UK Customs Academy, about how individuals and businesses can make the most of qualifications in global trade.

To find out more about the qualifications and resources provided by the UK Customs Academy, please visit:

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Why is training and education so important in the Customs world?

Like any profession such as law, engineering or accounting you need to make sure that you have the right skills, knowledge and competence to do the job properly. You also need to ensure that you know what your options are in order to maximize the benefits that are available to you through the various schemes and arrangements on offer. Finally, you need to ensure that you are compliant with the law.

What are the main skills that Customs Professionals learn?

Customs is essentially the regulatory touchpoint for international trade. First of all, you need to understand how international trade works, including who the players are, how goods get from a to b, what documentation needs to be completed, how transportation works and all the aspects of an international supply chain.

You then have to understand how Customs come into play at those touchpoints – what happens, where it happens, how it happens and who is responsible for making it happen. This may include Customs practices and procedures, the legal requirements behind these procedures, how Customs duty is collected and calculated, how do you lodge a declaration, what sort of authorisations do you need for certain activities and what goods might be prohibited or restricted. All these issues are covered by the Customs professional.

For businesses, what is the cost of not optimising their Customs regime?

It’s the old adage, you don’t know what you don’t know. You need to find out what options you have and what benefits you may be able to gain through the various schemes and arrangements that are available.

You also need to know what else is happening in your industry sector – how are your competitors benefitting from the various procedures, how are they reducing their cost, how are they reducing their administrative burden?

How does the Customs Academy help?

The UK Customs Academy provides a comprehensive range of qualifications taking you through from the very basic to the very advanced. It also helps you to gain recognition from the Customs profession.

We take you through all the various subjects at the different level of complexity and include some very innovative online tools to help you with your studies. These include the UCC Navigator, which is a very useful tool in helping you to identify various parts of relevant legislation, and also the Declaration Assistant, an online tool that helps you complete Customs Declarations.

Why should businesses get involved with the Customs Academy?

For companies it’s important to ensure that your employees are fully conversant with all aspects relating to Customs. They need to have the necessary skills, knowledge and confidence to do the job properly. At the end of the day, if your company has lodged a declaration, it’s your company that’s held responsible by Customs.

Why should individuals get involved with the Customs Academy?

Whether you’re looking to get into the Customs Profession or if you’re already in the Profession and looking to advance in your career, the Academy gives you a range of great opportunities. Whatever level you want to study at, it’s available. We go from Level 2 to 7, which is basically from school leavers to Master’s degree. At each level we ensure that the materials are fully compliant not only with HMRC requirements but also international requirements.

I think you’ll find studying with the Academy to be a great step towards a great career.

What tips would you give to future Customs professionals?

I think it’s important to be able to understand the principles and legal requirements that sit behind the various practices and procedures. Basic knowledge will get you there in 95% of the cases you’ll deal with in your career, but it’s the 5% that will really test you.

My advice would therefore be to study hard, take everything very seriously and you can be the one that can deals with those 5% of cases. Your knowledge, your skills and your competence will be valued.