February 2018 | Case Studies | Reader Profile

Howie Mann: Helping to Train a New Generation

Tags: Logistics, Careers, Supply Chain

Howie Mann is a founder and board member with the Urban Assembly School for Global Commerce in New York City, which provides opportunities for economic mobility through access to college and career pathways in supply chain management and freight logistics.

Helping to guide the school in its CTE (career and technical education) program, including curriculum and ongoing CTE activities, such as internships, ghosting with participating companies and agencies, and identifying resources to bolster the school's programs.

Associate transportation analyst, New York Metropolitan Transportation Council; adjunct professor, Polytechnic Institute of New York University; planner, MTA Metro North Railroad.

BA, City University Queens College, 1976;
MS, transportation planning and engineering, Polytechnic Institute of New York, 1981.

The Urban Assembly School for Global Commerce started with a conversation. In 2010, I was talking with a labor statistics professional about positions in warehousing, transportation management, and logistics. The New York metropolitan region historically had very few jobs in these fields, as we weren't preparing students for them. Yet these are reliable jobs with good benefits, and they're not going to disappear.

That led to a further conversation with the Urban Assembly, an organization that helps create high schools. One thing led to another, and the Urban Assembly School for Global Commerce opened in 2013 in East Harlem. This is a full New York City school, staffed with New York City teachers, principals, and other staff.

The first graduating class was June 2017; more than three-quarters of starting students graduated in four years. Graduation was the culmination of a huge effort, and it was wonderful.

Graduates can go directly into a related position, or they can further their education in supply chain, logistics, or transportation planning and engineering. About 80 percent of our first graduating class went on to college.

The board, faculty, principal, and industry partners give 100 percent to support the students, many of whom come from families facing many challenges. They're focused on helping these students achieve things they didn't know they could.

I retired in 2015 after working for the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council (NYMTC), a metropolitan planning organization, as a principal freight planner. I produced, with the cooperation of many others, a body of work. While I was with NYMTC, my responsibilities included conducting and managing many studies.

One study looked at the potential development of freight villages around the NYMTC region. Freight villages are concentrated areas of freight activity within specific borders. They bring together shippers, receivers, carriers, and manufacturers, so companies can take advantage of easy access to railroads and highways.

I also performed truck terminal and warehouse surveys, and a freight inventory. These efforts lay down a baseline of information on freight-related facilities in the area. Prior to these surveys, no one had this information.

When my brother and I were kids, our dad introduced us to trains. I saw these huge machines moving toward me, and it left a lasting impression.

I was looking for a career change, and found out Polytechnic Institute of New York had a program in transportation planning and engineering. I enrolled, loved it, and decided to make a career out of it.

I recognized early on that few people know anything about freight. Most are unaware of what's going on in the background: "Well, the package just shows up at my door."

Actually, it's a daily miracle all this activity takes place. I find it fascinating. I consider myself extremely fortunate that I've been able to spend a career working on something I enjoy so much.

The Big Questions

Where have you traveled by train?

All over. I've traveled the high-speed trains of Europe, including Italy, and the Eurostar from England to France, Germany, Belgium, and Switzerland. I've traveled across Canada, along the West Coast, and through the South by train.

What books have left an impression?

The books on my night table these days focus on the early days of World War II, including the Dunkirk evacuation. I'm curious about it from both the logistics and the World War II aspects.

What's the best leadership advice you've received?

Be true to yourself, be fair to the people you work with, and at the same time, try to achieve your objectives.

Before you retired, how would you have described your job to a five-year-old?

In simple terms, I help people get things they need.

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