Report: Success of Dallas Ecosystem Workforce Forum

The National Center for Supply Chain Technology Education (SCTE) is holding a series of Industry/Education Workforce Forums across key national markets. One of these forums was held in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area on April 29th, hosted by Walmart at the Walmart Fulfillment Center.  Participants attended a tour of Walmart’s automated logistics operation, which provided meaningful context for college attendees about how technicians work in automated settings and, for all attendees, to learn more about advanced material handling systems.

The objective of these events is to introduce industry partners with strong and ongoing Supply Chain Technician demand to academic leaders at colleges with established programs in areas such as mechatronics/advanced manufacturing, industrial maintenance, or integrated systems technology, as these programs have key similarities to the National Center model program. Colleges with these programs are well positioned to add supply chain technician training, thus affording students additional career pathway options.

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 industry research data on why warehouses are now installing automated material handling equipment and systems.  One industry attendee gave a presentation about their workforce development strategy of partnering with community colleges and technical schools to grow their technician workforce.  The presentation included a forceful “Call to Action” message to industry highlighting 10 different ways companies can work with colleges and the National Center to further this mission.  A representative from Intelligrated also made a presentation focused on the technician shortage and challenges firms have nationally with ongoing turnover due to internal promotions, staffing changes and baby boomer retirements.  Together these three factors create an industry wide annual turnover averaging 15% annually.

Following the Industry presentations, academics had their turn at the podium highlighting programs on their campuses which contain elements of the National Center model program.  The objective of these presentations was to make industry partners aware of the programs taught at each schools and to identify potential partners for their workforce development needs.  Elaine Gaertner, SCTE Educational Liaison, concluded with a presentation to the educators about SCTE classroom resources while the industry group attended campus tours at Tarrant County, Eastfield, and Richland Community Colleges.

Fifteen academics representing 7 colleges and 38 industry attendees, representing such companies as UPS, FedEx, Target, and Levi/Kohls, attended the event.  Together, the firms participating in this forum have an annual need for more than 1,000 skilled supply chain technicians and currently employ over 8,000 nationally.  These supply chain technicians play a critical role in installing, maintaining, and updating the automated systems in a 21st century warehouse of distribution center. In aggregate, the industry partners have enough regional demand for technicians to justify dedicated Community College or Technical School CTE programs focused on this occupation.

Additional Education/Industry Forums during this calendar year will occur in Chicago, Atlanta, and Charlotte.