Mhlnews 8047 Young Warehouse Workers 1

Get ‘Em While They’re Young

Aug. 10, 2017
We need to get better at selling our industry to the coming generations of workers.

The logistics sector needs to take a page from the manufacturing sector. A few years ago the industry panicked when it realized that the talent pipeline was sparse. It set out to change the image of the industry. It’s still headlong into that effort.

Logistics must take this same aggressive stand. We have a good story to tell and we need to tell it.

Of course the starting point is that the logistics sector will be looking to employ either 150,000 a year (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics) or 270,000 per year (according to trade association MHI). Whatever the number, it’s a lot of jobs.

So we have a selling job to do. Our strongest point is that on a daily basis these jobs solve problems. Combining creativity, technology and process-building, these jobs are fulfilling and that’s what the upcoming generation is looking for. They want work to be both meaningful and challenging.

Let’s start with meaningful. A recent survey of Millennial employees conducted by Cone Communications found that 89% of this age group wants to be “active participants in helping their company improve its responsible business practices by providing feedback, ideas and potential solutions.”

While that might sound difficult for many industries to accommodate, logistics and supply chain jobs are a perfect place to put that desire to work. Finding environmentally-friendly ways to move goods is a top goal for today’s supply chain managers. This is especially true when solving the issue of the last-mile delivery, which is often done in urban areas that are particularly concerned about the environmental impact. Lessening the carbon footprint is something that a Millennial, or any employee, can be proud of.

When it comes to workforce issues, the industry again is at the forefront of removing slave labor and human trafficking from the supply chain. What higher calling can there be than to ensure that our fellow human beings are treated fairly with respect and dignity?

On a financial level, the material handling and logistics field is one that can provide a long-term career. Our recent MH&L 2017 Salary Survey, for instance, indicates that the average base salary for managers is $97,526.

Another angle that often is overlooked is the global nature of the field. A recent PwC report found that 71% of Millennials expect to work abroad at some point during their careers.

In short, our industry is abundant with variety when it comes to job opportunities; we just need to get better at educating young people, particularly high school students (part of the so-called Centennial generation), about those opportunities.

Fayetteville, N.C., is one community that has the right idea through creation of a High School Connections program, a partnership between local high schools and Fayetteville Technical Community College. The program provides dual enrollment educational opportunities for high school students in order to accelerate completion of college certificates, diplomas and associate degrees that lead to college transfer or provide entry-level job skills. Its Global Logistics program prepares students for a multitude of career opportunities in distribution, transportation, warehousing, supply chain and manufacturing organizations. Credit obtained in the courses may be transferred directly into the Global Logistics and Distribution Management Technology associate degree curriculum.

While high school is an excellent entry point to offer the opportunity to choose logistics as a career, I would advocate going even further back. Manufacturing has camps for kids in middle school to experience the excitement of making things. Why not put together a camp or learning experience in logistics and supply chain for kids that age? Give them a problem to solve and let them develop ideas and technologies. At a recent trade show I was using virtual reality to maneuver a forklift in a facility and it was amazing.

APICS, a supply chain trade organization, recently launched a Supply chain STEM Education Outreach Program, which is aimed at introducing K-12 students to supply chain concepts and career paths. They hope to reach as many as 100,000 students by 2020.

Besides the kids, though, we also need to excite the entire value chain of parents, educators and guidance counselors. We need to reach out to community leaders, both locally and regionally, and partner with logistics companies.

And we need to do this now.

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