Linking Students to a Growth Industry

Indianapolis Star | August 13, 2011

Indiana’s logistics industry received high marks from the 2011 Manufacturing & Logistics Report Card, earning an “A” grade in the annual study compiled by the Ball State Center for Business and Economic Research. This is credited largely to a tax and legislative environment that promotes business growth, and geographical and infrastructure advantages that make it easy and cost effective to move goods to and from the state.

However, Indiana’s human capital received a “C” in the report, identifying a primary challenge for continued growth in these industries. In order to fully realize Indiana’s potential and capture market share in the logistics industry, we need to foster strong partnerships between industry leaders and educators to strengthen the capabilities and competencies of our workforce.

This is central to our mission at Conexus Indiana, where we have been working to bridge the gap between the classroom and the modern manufacturing facility or distribution center. Logistics is big business in Indiana, employing more than 250,000 Hoosiers, with 75,000 more employed in logistics careers by Indiana manufacturers. Overall, Indiana’s logistics employment rate is 60 percent higher than the national average. 

If we want to see this trend continue, we must ensure our workforce is prepared with the skills logistics employers are looking for. Conexus has developed close partnerships with secondary and post-secondary educators to provide real-world training and meaningful certifications to tomorrow’s workers.

Most recently, Conexus partnered with Harrison College to create an associate’s degree program in logistics. The program, which will begin in September, is the first logistics associates degree program in the state with curriculum designed with direct input from industry leaders. Jim Jelinek, director of operations at Langham Logistics, and Rick Weber, vice president, operations, at Venture Logistics, were instrumental in developing the coursework. The new program is uniquely designed to provide students the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in logistics, which will in turn help position Indiana as a global leader in this important industry.

Harrison College’s logistics program provides students with a thorough understanding of theory and application related to the advanced demand of planning and designing systems for moving goods and services. Students will collect and analyze data, identify alternative solutions and select the most appropriate course of action for product and service delivery. Graduates of the program will be prepared to serve as supervisors, managers, analysts, logisticians, and other leadership roles in the logistics industry.

Upon completion of the logistics program, Harrison College graduates will be able to efficiently plan, organize, and design logistical support activities, develop project management documents, identify strategies for fostering relationships with external and internal stakeholders , and will have thorough knowledge of local and international laws governing logistics activities. Graduates will also be empowered to create new efficiencies through innovation—a key contributor to continued growth in the industry.

At the high school level, Conexus Indiana has developed a logistics skills template with direct input from human resources and operations executives representing all sectors of the logistics industry. The skills template has received support from more than 50 superintendents and career center directors throughout the state for implementation in the classroom, and will provide students a solid education in logistics and common issues faced by today’s logistics employees.

Conexus Indiana’s Dream It. Do It. initiative takes the next step of recruiting students into these programs by identifying “Champions” at local high schools and careers centers who can help steer interested students toward appropriate training opportunities. Dream It. Do It. Champions are charged with showing students that today’s advanced manufacturing and logistics careers are no longer dark, dreary, or monotonous, but rather are fast-paced, high-tech and high-paying careers.

This fall, Conexus will bring industry and academia even closer together through the A+ Partners program, which pairs schools with local logistics and advanced manufacturing employers to provide guest speakers, facility tours, apprenticeships, and other learning opportunities.

These are the types of partnerships that will be essential to creating relevant, industry-approved educational pathways that will prepare young Hoosiers for tomorrow’s career opportunities and ensuring Indiana remains competitive in the global economy. It is encouraging that institutions like Harrison College and the state’s top logistics executives are eager to work together to create these educational opportunities. It is an approach that will pay off by supporting students’ career aspirations and helping Indiana grow its leadership position in logistics, nationally and globally.

Claudia Cummings
Vice President, Education, Workforce and Community Programs, Conexus Indiana