Community Colleges Bridging the Gap Between Supply Chain, IT and Engineering
In 1990 my college advisor asked me “Did you know you can pick up a second major and only add 5 hours?” I didn’t in fact know that.
“If you pick up ‘Transportation and Logistics’ in addition to your Marketing major you’ll add two classes, but you get to drop one class as a dual major.”
“Hey that’s great! I’ll do it! What’s Logistics?”
We (the logistics community) have come a long way since then. The terminology is leaning more toward calling the industry “Supply Chain Management” (or SCM) these days, however the term “Logistics” is widely known. Most schools have at least one class in logistics or SCM. And many have specific certificates, degrees, departments and/or multiple majors.
And what’s included under the logistics or SCM umbrella is increasing. In addition to the basics I learned way-back-when, we now teach budding young logisticians about purchasing and procurement, customer service, marketing, negotiation, imports/exports, analytics, as well as other topics. Much like the companies that hire them, Students need to understand that SCM isn’t just about trucks and warehouses.
But are we teaching them everything they need to know to be successful SCM professionals?
As a 30 year veteran of the SCM industry, I feel I can walk into just about any facility and within a few days or weeks be able to grasp the daily operations. I am fairly confident I can understand their management system software as well. At least well enough to do my job.
But can I dig deeper into the software to troubleshoot issues? Can I “talk tech” with the IT folks? And what about the engineers? Can I speak their language? “I can’t move that conveyor over there why?” 120 volts? 240 volts?
The answer is no. No, I can’t.
But what if a recent graduate could bridge the gap between the IT team, the Engineers and the Logisticians? What if she could read blueprints, use AutoCAD, discuss the facility’s network and data communications infrastructure, and discuss the algorithms used in the Warehouse Management System?
A new program at Columbus State Community College, just down the road (literally) from The Ohio State University, is hoping to provide that kind of logistician to the local community. Through funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program, Columbus State developed an applied associate’s degree in Logistics Engineering Technology (LET).
Columbus State identified a gap in the skills and knowledge of employees in the logistics community through industry outreach and input from area employers. Increasing amounts of technology and automation require a different skillset, and employers are looking for people with those skills. Many don’t have the time and/or the ability to train someone.
Additionally, there are businesses that know they need to advance, but don’t know how or where to start. For this purpose, a secondary goal of the program is to introduce educated Students into such businesses in order to leverage their knowledge and make a company more efficient and therefor more profitable.
Columbus State’s program isn’t just content with their LET program as it stands. An additional NSF-ATE grant has provided the opportunity to develop a “Work Study” program where Students go to school for a year, then enter the workforce with an industry partner for their second year. The Student will attend a paying job working three days a week and going to school for two. At the end of the program the company will have the opportunity to hire the Student. More importantly, at the end of two years the Students walk away with an associate’s degree, paid work experience, enhanced technical skills, and potential full-time job offers.
A new Columbus State employee, Stephanie Page, LET Program Coordinator, said it best when she first found out about the program. While discussing the work study aspect, she said it was a “…win-win situation for both the student and the employers, since they get the chance to hire someone they know is trained and competent.”
Columbus State is committed to working closely with the central Ohio community in order to identify further gaps and continue to strengthen curriculum and programs. Columbus is a world-class logistics center and Columbus State Community College strives to help keep it that way.
For more information about the program, visit the Columbus State LET website.
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About the Author
Jeremy Banta is a recently-retired Army Lieutenant Colonel with over 30 years’ experience in the civilian and military logistics industry. He recently left a full-time role with the Ohio Army National Guard as senior logistician and is now the Lead Instructor of Supply Chain Management at Columbus State Community College. His military experience includes a company command in Iraq, deployment to Kuwait and hurricane relief in Nicaragua and Louisiana. Jeremy may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org