Technical Training for the Ages

A new Supply Chain Training Center prepares high school students for material handling careers.

With so many changes in the past couple of years, most find it difficult to project much of anything with certainty. But, at the end of April in Rock Hill, S.C., it was possible to look back to the 1940s and clearly see the future of warehousing and distribution.

With about 60 notables in attendance, Rock Hill’s Applied Technology Center (ATC) dedicated the Don Frazier Supply Chain Training Center. Don Frazier, himself, was there, and, when he spoke, you could tell he had been waiting since 1946 for the moment.

He described the center as “a seed program to give high school students a future they might not have otherwise received.” In fact, Don saw a bit of himself in that statement.

In 1946, he worked as an “office boy” (his words) for a material handling consultancy. In 1950, he founded Frazier Industrial, a supplier of racks and other material handling equipment.

So far, 93 students have completed the course. The top student is a junior, Brandon Langston. And, to talk to Brandon after he received a recognition certificate and notebook computer from his new material handling mentor, it might as well have been the 1940s all over again.

After just one year of exposure to how distribution centers operate, Brandon feels ready to tackle his goals. “I just want to get out there and do the best job I can. This is all really exciting,” he said.

Don Gillman, director of ATC, put it quite well. “This is all about providing educational opportunities aligned to where the jobs will be when our students are ready to go to work.” The ATC has a total of 23 programs, from supply chain to culinary arts.

Needless to say, all of this took some time to come together. The text, “Fundamentals of Warehousing and Distribution,” used in the course, was written by Allan Howie, director of continuing education and professional development at Material Handling Industry of America. Allan is in the process of rolling out the curriculum to more than 20 additional high schools and technical colleges across the country.

As important as the text is, it doesn’t carry the Rock Hill program alone. Fourteen material handling companies donated roughly $500,000 of equipment to ATC, thanks to the Material Handling Education Foundation and its executive director Victoria Wheeler. As a result, students learn not only about equipment—conveyors, racks, inventory management software, powered storage and more— but how to operate it.

This is just the beginning. Gillman has already planned the curriculum for the next four years. The first three are classroom based, and the final year involves internships at local DCs.

“We will use this as the alpha site across the state to ensure growth in logistics education that embraces industry, from our ports to rail and, of course, the DCs themselves,” said Bob Couch, state director of South Carolina Career and Technical Education. “We expect this to be not only a model for the state but a model for the nation.”

With that, you can count on many more Brandon Langstons in the years to come.

Gary Forger is senior vice president of professional development for the MHIA. Contact him at [email protected].

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