Climbing the career ladder nowadays can be achieved via computer at times to suit you as more traditional learning routes are replaced by online courses, often taking just an hour a week.
The Institute of Car Fleet Management’s (ICFM) Introductory Certificate, for example, has been available online since the start of 2005 and the training body now has three online students for every paper-based one.
The ICFM is offering the course online to encourage more fleet industry professionals to study for the qualification.
The Introductory Certificate is for fleet administrators, HR departments or junior fleet professionals wanting to gain more knowledge about the fleet industry and how it works.
Steve Hook, education and training manager at the ICFM, explained: ‘The online Introductory course takes between 10 and 15 hours to complete with four to five hours then based on an assignment completed on the student’s own fleet.
‘We recommend study periods of between 45-90 minutes as after 90 minutes concentration starts to wane.’
Fleet managers can communicate with an ICFM trainer if there are problems and advice is sent via email.
Claire Hammond, fleet administrator at Princebuild, completed the online Introductory Certificate last year.
She said: ‘The course is clear, easy to follow and it doesn’t take too long to complete.
‘I studied during work hours in one hour blocks and it took about 15 hours to complete in total.
‘Support is also available online and I emailed the tutor several times during the course.’
More fleet professionals are taking this route and the ICFM currently has 30 fleet managers enrolled on its online course.
Hook said: ‘We have had several new sign-ups for the online programme over the past few weeks and are expecting a steady increase as word gets around about the benefits and effectiveness of this method of study.
‘Discussions are now under way with a number of organisations interested in putting through large cohorts of trainees.
‘The programme design enables both individual and collective tracking of trainee progress and we are currently looking at new ways of linking the training to a trainee’s job key performance indicators (KPI) and related competencies.’
The ICFM was founded in 1992 to train and educate car fleet managers and to establish recognition for fleet managers within the industry and commerce in general.
Training aims to lead to an academic qualification recognised and accepted by the car fleet industry as the requisite for the profession.
The ‘core’ training and education scheme is three-tier, leading to awards at Introductory Certificate, Certificate and Diploma levels.
The Introductory Certificate, which is the only module available online, caters for new entrants to car fleets and comprises one distance-learning module coupled to a job-based assignment.
The Intermediate Certificate module caters for members with operational rather than strategic responsibility in all aspects of car fleet management.
It is available in supported distance-learning format or residential tutor-based format.
The advanced Diploma module covers advanced techniques, skills and knowledge required for strategic management of the entire fleet operation or support services.
It is delivered through four residential modules at Loughborough University Business School.
Assessment is via job-based assignment at Introductory level, assignment reports and examinations at Certificate level and projects and dissertation at Diploma level.
After the Diploma there is no formal option. Generic courses can be taken such as the Automotive Skills degree programme offered at Nottingham University but there is not a specific degree in fleet management in the UK.
Other online offerings
LEARNDIRECT has more than 100 online business courses ranging from £25 to £100. Topics such as law, health and safety, software and computing, management and people skills and planning and finance are available.
Fleet managers have the option to try sample courses before purchasing and support is available through Learndirect during the courses.
All courses are completed fully online and as the courses are flexible they can be studied in blocks determined by the student.
AUTOMOTIVE Skills, the Sector Skills Council for the retail motor industry, offers a range of National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs), Scottish Vocational Qualifications (SVQs), technical certificates and key/core skills.
Courses include vehicle maintenance, design and automotive management. The courses are not 100% available online but can be studied as a combination between part-time tutorial and web-based learning.
THE Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) is set to launch an e-learning course which targets drivers but could also be useful for fleet managers. The course will be available from May and takes about 12 weeks to complete.
Modules include defensive driving, attitude and behaviour of drivers and driving tips. A spokesman for RoSPA said: ‘Online defensive training offers fleet managers an additional training tool, which can be used as a preliminary measure to establish where in-vehicle training resources could be most effectively employed, or as refresher training for those who have already benefited from in-vehicle training.’
Benefits of online study
Case study: ICFM online student
'I HAD recently started a new role in fleet management and felt this course would provide me with a good all-round understanding of the industry to assist me in becoming more knowledgeable in an area which I was quickly having to become an expert in.
‘As long as you have motivation and self-discipline it is easy. I scheduled some time each week, so I was doing something towards the course at least once a week.
‘Keeping the momentum of the process meant that time frames which were set were easily achievable.
‘This method allows you to manage the work/home/study balance much more effectively. If other commitments meant that the day I had scheduled became difficult, I could arrange to do the studying later that week, or even split the session into smaller time slots.
‘It certainly helped me gain a better understanding of the fleet industry and its history. It also gave me an understanding of some of the legalities which underpin the operations of a car fleet.
‘I went on immediately to the ICFM Fast Track Certificate in Car Fleet Management. I completed it in six months last year and I plan to go on to the Diploma course later this year. I have fully embraced the benefits of training and the online course was the starting block.'
Step by step to a better understanding of fleet
AFTER completing the online introductory course with the ICFM, the next step is the Intermediate course.
This is not currently available online but the ICFM is considering introducing it as a web-based programme.
Sara Cook looks after BSkyB’s 400-stong fleet and has done for the past five years. She completed the ICFM’s Intermediate course in fleet management last year and is now studying for the Diploma.
Her main responsibilities at BSkyB include looking after the supplier base, developing the fleet policy with human resources and overseeing the daily running of the fleet.
She said: ‘The Intermediate course covers people management, acquisition and disposal, law and finance. It is all done off-site and takes five days to complete over the year. The training has been very beneficial. It is also a great networking opportunity as you get the chance to meet other professionals in the same industry.
‘The Diploma covers subjects such as interpersonal skills, but it is basically advanced level modules and project based. It takes about a year to finish with a dissertation at the end.’
Cook has one project left and the dissertation to hand in by the summer before she completes the Diploma.
She said: ‘The Diploma has been very different to the Intermediate certificate. It is much more challenging and I have had to complete a lot of research, sometimes on areas I have not touched on before. It has been worthwhile as I have broadened my knowledge base.
‘I am looking forward to applying some of the recommendations in the reports I have written to the fleet at BSkyB.’