Commentary | Smart Moves

Georgia’s Supply Chain Industry Steers the Next Generation of Workers

Tags: Education & Careers, Economic Development

Garret Lazenby is Logistics Practice Leader and Broker, Sterling Risk Advisors, and Board Member, Transportation Club of Atlanta, 678-424-6505

Today’s global economy is a vast competitive network, challenged by increased government regulation, changing technology, jittery financial markets, and a myriad of niche-specific customer requirements. Baby Boomers, Generation Xers, and early Millennials built this system in the 1980s and ’90s, but as they retire it is vital to groom a new generation to pass their knowledge and experience on to those who will move into their field over the next 30 years.

In the early ’80s, Keith Oliver, then a consultant at management consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, coined the term supply chain to describe the complex system of organizations, people, activities, information, and resources involved in moving a product or service from supplier to customer. The concept really started taking hold in the late ’90s as the economy became a much more globally sophisticated marketplace.

Fast forward to 2014, and Georgia is home to some of the world’s biggest and fastest-growing distribution networks and transportation hubs. The state also boasts some of the best universities and businesses in the country, many offering majors in supply chain management and global business, including subsets such as logistics and transportation.

That next generation of workers is a key ingredient in positioning Georgia as one of the best places to do business. So how do we ensure that promising future?

In fall 2013, the Transportation Club of Atlanta (TCA), a local Chapter of Transportation Clubs International, started an internship program connecting Georgia-based universities and supply chain companies. Part of TCA’s mission is to help promote a greater knowledge of supply chain, logistics, and transportation, so it was an easy decision to start this program locally.

Each business partnering with the TCA has the autonomy to design its internship program as it chooses. The club’s job is to help connect businesses with the best students in the state.

Less than six months after the launch, TCA already had several local universities involved, including the Georgia Institute of Technology, Georgia Southern University, Kennesaw State University, and Clayton State University.

Two of the first companies involved in the program are retailer The Home Depot and distributor Unisource Worldwide Inc. Students are getting great experience and building their resumes. The companies have a pipeline of internship positions to fill, with workers ready to start immediately in supply chain positions and other jobs such as transportation and logistics.

The Home Depot, the world’s largest home improvement specialty retailer, is one of the biggest supply chain companies in the world, and one of Georgia’s largest employers. Its supply chain internship program started in summer 2011.

“Home Depot’s partnership with TCA has demonstrated one of our key values: building relationships,” says Shannon Long, senior manager human resources, supply chain, for The Home Depot. “The coordination between TCA and Georgia’s colleges has been effective in providing great quality resumes of students in consideration for our job openings.”

Unisource is one the largest distributors of national and private-label products in North America, with capabilities including engineered package design, e-business technologies, logistics, paper procurement, and optimized facilities management. For more than 15 years, the company has been using supply chain, logistics, and transportation from universities including Georgia Southern University and the University of Tennessee Knoxville. Unisource looks forward to expanding its program.

Frances Tinsley, customer project manager at Unisource Logistics Solutions, manages Unisource’s supply chain internship program. She says the partnership with the TCA has allowed the company to connect with the best students in Georgia, who can immediately provide a beneficial impact to its supply chain operation.

TCA is currently working on additional partnerships, including one with Southwire Company, one of North America’s leading manufacturers of wire and cable used in the distribution of electricity.

Supply chain, logistics, and transportation will continue to be a leading source of jobs and revenue for the state of Georgia. The Transportation Club of Atlanta is looking for more universities and companies to join its program.