Six Surefire Ways to Build a Logistics Workforce

Indiana ranks second in the United States for manufacturing and logistics employment growth and first in the percentage of Hoosiers employed in these industry sectors. Couple those statistics with Indiana’s “Crossroads of America” logistics reputation and there is a compelling reason to develop a skilled workforce for continued growth.

Building tomorrow’s workforce is a team sport, and in Indiana, we work together with industry leading the way. Through Conexus Indiana, a statewide initiative to grow Indiana’s competitive advantage in advanced manufacturing and logistics, logistics industry leaders came together to form the Conexus Indiana Logistics Council (CILC) to identify and implement strategic initiatives to grow Indiana’s industry leadership position. Strategies focus on infrastructure (including innovation), public awareness, public policy, and workforce development.

Workforce Development Tenets

Over the past several years, CILC has implemented a number of workforce development programs that have been effective in developing a skilled workforce. Building a talented workforce starts with engaging students at a high level, giving them hands-on experience, and ensuring the education they receive aligns with industry needs.

Here are six ways to engage and prepare the next generation of logistics workers:

  1. Executive leadership: Successful workforce development must be a top-level executive priority. While the logistics industry is highly competitive, Indiana’s C-Suite executives recognize that a coordinated effort to attract the best and brightest students to the industry is a win for every business. In Indiana, logistics company CEOs can be found on college campuses, meeting personally with students and inviting them to tour logistics facilities. They’re also on hand for special events and mentoring opportunities to collect resumes for internships and full-time employment.
  2. Immersive experiences: Students want hands-on experiences, and internships are one of the best ways to provide those. Through Conexus Indiana’s programs, internships start as early as high school, where the Conexus Interns program provides support to launch paid internships at little or no cost to employers, and qualified high school students have the opportunity to work with warehouse management systems and Kaizen events, effectively translating classroom instruction into practical experience. Industry partners gain access to talent who know how to get the job done. For students, these internships can lead to full-time employment after graduation.
  3. Education/industry alignment: Industry has taken a leadership role to ensure educational pathways align with industry needs. Working with two- and four-year colleges and universities, CILC members review and endorse supply chain/logistics curricula so students who successfully complete associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degree programs are employable and reap the benefits of a logistics career.
  4. Competitive learning: Case study competitions invite students to understand the high-tech logistics environment and the challenges of a logistics career. In 2016, the first CILC Case Competition brought together 75 students in teams from 17 Indiana colleges to solve a logistics-related problem. For three days, the teams enjoyed unparalleled networking access to many of the state’s highest-ranking executives, while working to develop the winning response to a real-world logistics business case. Winning teams earned $5,000 (first place), $2,000 (second place), and $1,000 (third place)—awards made possible through corporate sponsorships.
  5. High school engagement: In Indiana, advanced manufacturing and logistics education starts for thousands of students in high school, with an innovative two-year curriculum known as Hire Tech. Industry representatives visit local high schools and career centers and volunteer their time in the classroom to introduce students to opportunities available to them in this thriving industry through the Conexus A+ Partners program. Throughout the two-year program, students can earn dual credits toward post-secondary education and industry-recognized credentials that provide the potential for immediate employment upon high school graduation. Since its inception in 2012, Hire Tech has graduated more than 7,000 high school students job-ready for high-tech careers. More than 8,300 industry credentials have been earned, and 16,641 college credits worth more than $2.5 million have been awarded.
  6. Veterans programs: Tapping into an already skilled workforce and introducing them to opportunities in the logistics industry is also important. Conexus Indiana connects veterans with employers in Indiana’s advanced manufacturing and logistics industries through its newly established INvets program. The program is designed to help veterans find fulfilling employment in the civilian world and help employers tap a rich reserve of employees with the valuable attributes of maturity, experience, a can-do attitude, and an understanding of teamwork.

While Indiana’s logistics industry leaders compete for some of the same talent, they are committed to a statewide, coordinated workforce development effort. More than 250 Indiana logistics companies participate in statewide efforts to strengthen the logistics sector, and many of them work directly with educators and students to build a robust talent pipeline for Indiana’s logistics industry. It’s a strategy that works. And it is a significant part of why Indiana has earned and will maintain its “Crossroads of America” leadership position.

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