Getting it from here to there

Kelly Dean and Royce Dugan walk a warehouse floor at TNT Supply Chain Services. (Photo: Vol State)

Logistics is the process that allows things to move, whether it be sofas to Seattle or iPads to Indonesia. Parts and finished products travel around the globe in a system set by professionals in logistics and supply chain management.

Public two-year colleges are integral to ensuring the workforce is properly trained in logistics and supply chain management training to match the speed of commerce. Take Volunteer State Community College in Tennessee, which is preparing for a new Amazon operations center in Nashville. State officials say the center, which is expected to employ 5,000 people, will have an emphasis in customer fulfillment and supply chain management.

“You already have Amazon with several warehouse distribution centers in Middle Tennessee,” said Royce Dugan, CEO of TNT Supply Chain Services. “You have Nissan parts and distribution. Just drive down highway 840 and look to the right and to the left, you will see hundreds of thousands of square feet of distribution space. We have six interstates intersections in Nashville. You can reach 80 percent of the U.S. population from here.”

The growth means that companies are searching for trained supply chain management professionals, Dugan said.

“It’s very hard getting qualified people. We run ads every day. You can start in an entry-level position and wind up managing an entire product line eventually,” he said.

Kelly Dean graduated from the Vol State program last year. She now works for TNT.

“I tend to get bored if things get stagnant and in logistics there is always something changing,” she said. “There are new regulations and procedures. It keeps it interesting.”

Staying current with real-world needs

Vol State is continuously tweaking its programs to ensure they are providing the training relevant to available jobs, as well as looking ahead to skills those jobs will require. For example, it has added a cyber security element to its logistics and supply chain management classes and works with the college computer information technology program. The goal is to tie the classroom education to real-world needs.

“The classes now have a weekly real-life case study. We’re looking at inventory management. We’re talking about technology and the impact of technology. We’re discussing trade and tariffs,” said Vol State professor Don Ellis.

The emphasis on the real world at Vol State is also seen through work-based learning partnerships, where students work paying jobs and earn college credit. Five companies are developing partnerships with Vol State and more are coming soon.

Vol State highlights the career pathway students can take, beginning with a one-year certificate in logistics and supply chain management. They can then take those credits and work toward an associate of applied science degree in logistics and supply chain management. Vol State has transfer partnerships in logistics and supply chain management with area universities, allowing students to continue their education for a four-year degree.

Serving many industry sectors

Other community colleges across the country are also developing or expanding their supply chain and management programs. Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC) in Michigan, for example, announced this week that it’s offering a new certificate program to meet industry demand for supply chain operations managers.

The 30-week program, which starts in January, will prepare people to manage the movement and storage of raw materials, inventory and finished goods from where they are made to where they are used.

“Every sector of industry is seeking entry-level workers with the technical knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in the dynamic field of supply chain management,” said Pam Miller, associate dean of workforce development. “GRCC is uniquely positioned to address this employment gap by attracting new talent to the field.”

Students who earn this certificate can start immediately in the workforce as production, planning and expediting clerks. They also may apply the credits they earned toward an associate degree in business or other programs, or pursue bachelor degrees in supply chain management or logistics.

The new certificate builds upon a noncredit program offered through GRCC Job Training, which the college launched in 2016 with a grant from JPMorgan Chase.

About the Author

Eric Melcher
is coordinator of marketing and public relations at Volunteer State Community College in Gallatin, Tennessee.