Enforcing Soft Skills

Enforcing Soft Skills

By: Aayla Umar | Student Border Services Officer
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Meet “Student Border Services Officer (SBSO) Umar”, who shares what her co-op was like at the Canada Border Services Agency. This article was originally published in the Summer 2014 Arts Co-op Newsletter. 

“Student Border Services Officer (SBSO) Umar” might seem like a bit of a mouthful to say, but trust me when I say that the title is worth the baggage! Working with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) has been an incredibly dynamic opportunity I have been lucky to secure through Co-op. As a federal law enforcement agency responsible for border, immigration and customs enforcement services in the postal, marine, land and air modes of transportation, CBSA offers a wide range of experiences. I worked both in the Vancouver International Mail Centre and Cruise Ship Terminals, promoting compliance with Canada’s border, enforcement, tax legislation and regulations through responsible enforcement.

Initially applying for this position caused me some apprehension considering I have no training in law enforcement and come from an International Studies and World Literature background. I soon realized that this position is not just for those with a criminology background. With the extensive training CBSA gives student officers, you definitely feel well equipped to take on the job. One day you’re actually doing the work that you’re watching CBSA officers do on T.V. It’s a surreal, challenging, engaging and educational experience. At the Cruise Ship Terminals, the work involves determining passenger admissibility into Canada, reading and deconstructing E311 declaration cards, applying immigration legislation, conducting and assisting in passenger and crew member inspections onboard cruise ships, and ensuring compliance with border regulations. In the Mail Centre, I intercept contraband goods from entering Canada, while assessing duties and taxes on parcels. Familiarizing myself with x-ray machinery, drug identification equipment, and declaration forms have been an integral part of both areas, alongside carrying out enforcement against any contraband goods.

Employment with the CBSA has enhanced some of my pre-existing skills and abilities along with fostering a new skillset that I can utilize in future opportunities in a major way. From the get go the job requires utilizing analytical and critical thinking in the fast paced, often stressful, work environments. Getting used to making tough calls on the spot increases your self-confidence. Working with the public develops your cross cultural awareness, gives you a global perspective, all while optimizing your communication skills. Having high integrity, professionalism and a good understanding of CBSA’s values is a big part of the job, and the client services aspect keeps you accountable for your actions within that context. Working with a team of people who are relying on you also enhances your interpersonal abilities while improving your organizational skills.

Working as part of a team teaches you to not only respect those around you but also to respect yourself. The skills and abilities that my stint with the CBSA has given me have increased my confidence in myself, and thus my respect. I would definitely recommend pursuing a Co-op opportunity with the CBSA.

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Posted on May 22, 2014