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Venieris Leaves Lasting Impression On Port Industry

Published: March 3, 2014

Marianne Venieris’ impact on port-related industries and the region as a whole is well documented.

The recently retired executive director for CSULB’s Center for International Trade and Transportation (CITT) was all about bringing industry people together with the goal of making an impact on the economic well-being of the region. It was something she worked tirelessly at for the past 15-plus years.

“The secret to CITT’s success is engaging and bringing together leaders of the industry we serve,” said Venieris.

Back in 1995, during a trade association meeting, Venieris became aware of the need for a skilled and well-trained workforce in the goods movement industry. She engaged a small number of people from warehousing and trucking to outline the curriculum for a training program. Soon it became obvious that to address industry demands, there was a need for an industry certification or designation that allowed students to understand the entire supply chain.

“This was a ground-breaking concept,” said Venieris. “As then, on-the-job-training was the norm.”

It took an entire year to develop the curriculum for the Global Logistics Specialist (GLS) Professional Designation program. Assisting in the effort was an advisory board consisting of all transport modes and industry sectors, including the port authority, terminal operators, railroad, trucking and warehousing, customs and freight forwarders. Next, industry leaders and experts were brought in to teach the segment of the supply chain they represent. “To have instructors who ‘walk the talk’ is invaluable,” said Venieris.

“She had a unique vision to create a place where the best efforts of the university could serve an industry that was so vital to the local economy,” said Thomas O’Brien, who recently took over as interim executive director of CITT.

To some extent, Venieris credits her German heritage.

“The vision I had was very much based on the German apprenticeship system which is a partnership between industry, government and the national chamber of commerce. There are many who say it’s the backbone of the German economy as it provides and develops a highly skilled workforce,” she said. “Trained as a mechanical drafts person, I was a product of that program and a strong believer. My goal was to offer comprehensive skill-focused training for the international goods movement industry with enough essential information to generate a knowledgeable and skilled workforce pool,” Venieris added.

Well over 1,000 individuals have gone through the program and 900 have earned the GLS designation that has become the industry-recognized standard for professional development.

“I think that the role that CSULB has played in forging a new path forward in logistics education is a model of which our region can be proud,” said O’Brien, noting that the GLS Program has provided a skilled workforce for the trade and transportation industry for more than 15 years. “I’m proud to be part of it and I’m also proud to have worked under the founder of the program, Marianne Venieris.”

Credit for the success of the GLS program is given to the unprecedented industry/university partnership. The GLS has become the foundation for many other programs, such as the Marine Terminal Operations Professional designation Program and various customized training for public agencies like Caltrans and the Port of San Diego.

Equally as impressive is that industry leaders suggested that the university can do more by offering stakeholders a neutral and unbiased forum where they can jointly address issues of common concern, share expertise and bring about solutions. This led to the establishment of the CITT in 1998, the center’s Policy and Steering Committee that meets monthly and the annual CITT State of the Trade and Transportation Industry Town Hall Meeting.

Venieris Leaves Lasting Impression On Port Industry
Tom O’Brien (l) and Marianne Venieris

“It was revolutionary to think that you could bring ports, terminal operators, long shore labor, public agencies and the community together at the same educational forum and have them meet regularly around the same table but she did it,” said O’Brien.

Working closely with the industry is how CITT is able to learn about issues and industry challenges.

“This helps us to revise and update our curricula frequently, keeping to our promise— to offer the most up-to-date information,” Venieris added. “Additionally, it is invaluable for our research. Because of the relationships and friendships formed over the year, CITT and our research partners in the METRANS Transportation Center (a partnership between CSULB and the University of Southern California) are able to secure sound and valid data, which was not accessible to many researchers prior.”

And make no mistake, Venieris was the driving force behind it all, participating on the board of numerous associations and going the extra mile whenever needed.

“I didn’t mind if association luncheons, industry meetings and various networking forums stretched on making a long day at work,” she said. “This kind of industry engagement has earned us the reputation of being an active industry partner.”

Port of Long Beach Harbor Commission President Doug Drummond acknowledged Venieris’ ground-breaking efforts.

“This lady has broken more new grounds than anyone I know in the academic world,” he said. “Her students enrich both ports of the San Pedro Bay and stretch out around the world now. She is really a change agent.”

And Venieris—whose efforts were recently recognized in proclamations from the Gateway Cities Council of Governments, California State Assembly and the Port of Long Beach Harbor Commission—knows she couldn’t have done it all alone, giving tremendous credit to her staff.

“I had an amazing staff—Dr. Tom O’Brien, Angeli Logan, Alix Traver, Brenda Gonzales and Diane Delaterre—talented and skilled individiuals very committed working as an effective team,” she said. “People expect you to say ‘I couldn’t have done it without them,’ but in this case it’s true. And I could not wish for a better person than Tom O’Brien to follow me. His research, teaching, publications and speaking engagements have established him as an expert.”