While not everyone needs to be an export compliance expert, employees and stakeholders at all levels across the organization certainly need to be aware of this important issue, as they are the front line in detecting suspicious transactions, preventing inadvertent or unauthorized exports.

Export compliance awareness education & training at an appropriate level of detail should be mandatory for everyone in your organization and is part of any world class export compliance program. Voluntary education & training is this area is not recommended. All third-party stakeholders (vendors, resellers, distributors, etc.) with access to the organization’s proprietary information and products including technology, technical data and defense services should receive export compliance awareness education & training – initially and on a recurring basis.

Education & training should be mandatory before an employee is given the ability to export items, related information, assistance or have access to any export controlled material. Ideally, education & training should commence within a week of employment, and annually thereafter. The same should apply to suppliers, third-party distributors and other players in the organization’s globally integrated supply chain. Due diligence to ensure everyone who needs export compliance education & training and related issues is essential.

All employees and staff should be required to acknowledge in writing they have read and understand the organization’s Export Control Plan, as well as rudimentary rules and regulations specific responsibilities (or especially one’s general role inside the organization). Everyone should also be well versed in the organization’s code of conduct and reporting channels when violations are known or suspected.

All staff and third parties should be exposed to export compliance awareness education & training at least once per year and should be provided with periodic reminders by a variety of means including emails, letters, posters…. Again, documentation and record retention are important.

Management should strongly support and (as/where appropriate) attend export compliance awareness sessions. The senior staff including the Chief Executive Officer, Chairman, President, Vice Presidents, Directors or other high level individuals should clearly and concisely communicate the importance of export compliance with the letter and spirit of the law throughout the organization.

Awareness Program Guidelines

General awareness education & training videos and presentations ideally should be short and be followed by a short test to confirm/prove/validate learning. Issuing a certificate to those that participated in the session and passed the test is optional, but strongly recommended. Taking attendance and maintaining a complete record of what was presented are essential.

A “Common Level” of export compliance education & training should be identified. A basic awareness program does not replace additional more-focused and specific education & training for those individuals that require more in-depth expertise. This “Common Level” of export compliance awareness includes: background on laws, regulations, relevant agencies and legal responsibilities; export compliance requirements; access & business controls; knowledge of the organization’s export specific policies, processes and procedures, applicable information on the disciplinary and disclosure actions; recordkeeping and who to contact for further compliance advice.

Education & training should include the impact & importance of export compliance to the person as an individual (i.e. potential of adverse actions, criminal prosecution and other negative consequences), as well as to the organization. The “Common Level” should be determined based on a thorough needs and risk assessment that includes consideration of regulatory requirements and the unique nature of the organization.

Diverse external education & training experts should be leveraged and best practices, and benchmarks should be used for guidance in program developing. Where possible, multiple delivery options should be used to suit different learning modes. Where practical, all materials should be made accessible to staff with disabilities. Where this is not possible, alternative methods must be provided.

Delivery & Administration

Information technology (IT) should be used in an optimized manner to automate education & training, as well as, to provide the necessary tools. Records of attendance should always be retained and kept in personnel files or in an easily accessed compliance-tracking tool/database. Qualitative & quantitative metrics should be used to obtain feedback and measure program results and effectiveness.

Where possible, multiple points of contact along with compliance personnel (e.g. senior management, Contracts, Engineering, IT, Legal, Logistics/Shipping, Operations, Procurement, Sales/Marketing, Human Resources, Security…) should also be used to reinforce learning and stress the critical importance of the program.


The effects and necessity of implementing an Export Compliance Awareness Program should never be underestimated. In today’s global, competitive, demanding and dynamic marketplace of exporting and its ever-changing rules and regulations, an organization must be diligent in this arena in order to advance its mission and comply with the letter and spirit of the law. Likewise, export compliance education & training is not a one-time event. To be truly effective, it has to be a comprehensive, ongoing and a well documented effort that quickly reflects changes.