Industry Leads the Way in SCTE Educational Ecosystem Development

On November 3, members of the National Center for Supply Chain Technology Education (SCTE) Industry Leadership Team and Columbus State Community College (CSCC) partnered with SCTE to convene an industry and educator forum. Phil Jones, NA Facilities & Engineering Manager for Target, introduced SCTE to senior leaders at a Columbus, Ohio area Target distribution center which hosted the joint meeting and two amazing facility tours.  Kieran Ryan, Director of LSS Field Operations for Intelligrated, worked to secure involvement of key industry representatives as well as leaders from CSCC and Intelligrated.  Scott Filgis, Regional Field Engineering Manager for Dematic, also brought key industry representatives to the table.

The objective of this “Ecosystem Development” work is to introduce industry partners, with strong and ongoing Supply Chain Technician demand, to key academic leaders at colleges with established programs that have key similarities to the SCTE model program. In aggregate, the regional industry partners have enough annual demand for Technicians to justify a dedicated college or technical school program focused on this occupation.

Together, firms who participated in this event have an annual demand for more than 1,000 skilled Supply Chain Technicians nationally and currently employ over 7,000 technicians.  Industry meeting attendees included senior representatives from FedEx GroundUPSWal-MartTargetIntelligratedDematicAscenaL Brands and Witron.  In this convening, direct competitors came together to discuss collaborative ways to grow the Technician workforce pipeline rather than continuing to steal talent from one another, a common industry practice.  The industry participants have a combined need in the Columbus market area for 25 Technicians annually. This is enough employment demand to “sustain” a full time dedicated technician program in Columbus.

The industry and educator forum began with an SCTE presentation from Steve Harrington, Industry Liaison.  This talk highlighted the Center’s progress, web-based resources and research data focused on why warehouses are now installing automated material handling equipment and systems.  The increasing use of warehouse automation is driving the need for more skilled technicians.

Phil Jones then shared information on Target’s workforce strategy to partner with community colleges and technical schools to grow the technician workforce.  His presentation included a forceful “call to action” message to industry highlighting 10 different ways companies can work with CSCC and SCTE to further this mission.  Kieran Ryan made a second industry presentation focused on the technician shortage and the challenges firms have nationally with ongoing turnover due to internal promotions, staffing changes and baby boomer retirements estimated at 15% annually.

Attendees then toured two separate automated Target facilities.  The highlight was a tour of the fully automated Food Distribution Center featuring a state of the art Witron system. The tours help to provide context for the occupation to educators who are unfamiliar with automated warehousing, and for all attendees to learn more about advanced material handling systems. The event concluded with a lunch meeting and discussion between CSCC staff and industry participants focused on next steps.

After the forum, a number of meeting attendees traveled to campus where Jeff Spain, Supervisor, Center for Workforce Development, showcased CSCC’s industrial training lab to industry representatives. A $1M grant from the National Science Foundation’s ATE Program was used to purchase the state of the art equipment utilized in the training lab.  Additionally, during a separate presentation, Elaine Gaertner, Educational Liaison for SCTE, introduced national center resources to CSCC staff and discussed how SCTE and CSCC can collaborate.

Mike Bowers, Director of CSCC’s Center for Workforce Development and Scott Wegeng, Supervisor, Business, Engineering & Technology, worked with SCTE to plan the gathering.  CSCC has a leading Electro-Mechanical AA degree program lead by Dr. Dick Bickerstaff, Electronic Engineering Technology Department Chair. This program drew the attention of Elaine Gaertner and SCTE staff because it contains many aspects of the industry vetted SCTE Model Program.  The successful CSCC program, strong demand for Technicians and industry data identifying Columbus as a logistics centroid, all made Columbus a perfect location for SCTE’s first Ecosystem Development project.

Forum participants learned from each other through the exchange of expert information and ideas with the mutual goal of driving sustainable momentum toward meeting current and future Supply Chain Technician workforce demands. SCTE is now working nationwide to convene significant regional forums consisting of like-minded logistics industry stakeholders and academic professionals focused on this strategic goal.

Photo above: Kieran Ryan, Director of LSS Field Operations for
Intelligrated, delivers his presentation focused on Technician recruitment
challenges to meeting attendees
Photo below: Attendees from Industry and CSCC who participated
in the ecosystem development forum