QCC launches logistics certificate program

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WORCESTER – After five years of development, Quinsigamond Community College is launching its newest certificate program and the first in Massachusetts for students seeking a career in logistics and supply chain management.

The Logistics/Supply Chain Management Certificate program, approved in 2014 and launching this fall, was designed to give students the knowledge, skills and hands-on experience required for entry-level positions in transportation, distribution, warehousing, inventory management and purchasing.

The goal is to prepare students for jobs such as warehouse supervisor, business analyst, transportation clerk, inventory manager or sales representative.

“Logistics is an understanding of how the materials are procured to manufacture a product, then how a product is inventoried and prepared to go to customers,” said Kathy Rentsch, dean of the School for Business, Engineering & Technology at QCC. “On the supply chain side, it also means working with the customers that use source materials from or with those customers for which you provide the material. It’s almost like picturing a person in the middle of a wheel, managing all the various spokes and keeping the whole thing moving at the same time.”

Many community colleges across Massachusetts have looked at how to better address the transportation field. Ms. Rentsch said QCC decided the best way to start was to develop a logistics curriculum.

Transportation is an enormous field that requires detailed focus – mainly on the where and how: Are goods coming in from overseas, by full-truck mode or small parcel transport? How is the transportation managed? How does one get the maximum value out of a container?

Distribution and warehousing is the management of the flow of goods from the point of manufacture to the point of consumption, such as loading and unloading trucks, putting things away and picking merchandise. It can also function as the management of information, such as forecasting inventory management.

“In my past, I managed a distribution center for Sears in California. That’s a half-million-square-foot facility,” said John Hulton, vice president of corporate transportation at TriMark USA, designer of the program’s curriculum and the instructor of the program’s introductory class. “We had about 300 people working there, and those folks unloaded trucks, put merchandise away, took orders and picked merchandise that was ready for shipment, and then loaded trucks.”

Another fundamental part of supply chains is purchasing, and it becomes more information-based as an organization grows in size and scope.

An understanding of the functional disciplines of supply chains and logistics and how they fit together within a company is one of the key goals of QCC’s new program, as well as understanding the vernacular to prepare for job interviews.

The certificate curriculum consists of new and existing courses at QCC. Students must complete nine courses to obtain a certificate. The program can accommodate up to 20 students this fall.

In the introductory course, students discuss what’s happening in the field – e-commerce, the transition from brick-and-mortar stores to online retailing, and technology such as driverless trucks.

“I think it’s important for students not only to have a foundational understanding of the various disciplines within the field of logistics, but also a very topical today and into-the-future perspective,” said Mr. Hulton.

Students may also apply their credits to an associate degree in business administration or manufacturing.

Currently there is one permanent instructor, program coordinator Jean McLean, along with Mr. Hulton teaching most of the specialized classes.

The need for workers with skills in logistics is growing rapidly. A search of the Occupational Outlook Handbook and Indeed.com shows that within just 50 miles of QCC, the term “logistics” flags more than 260 available jobs.

In addition, there are several ways into the field without a master’s degree.

“It’s one of those industries that’s hidden to the general population, but it kept popping up in the work that we were doing in manufacturing, as well as the work that we’ve been doing in the overall transportation workforce development field,” said Ms. Rentsch.

Eighteen months ago, QCC convened a panel to raise awareness of the program, gaining the support of several businesses – United Parcel Service, Google and Lenze Americas.

QCC hopes to see the program attract more students and provide more chances for students to move through the program quickly, with online courses and a shortened semester.

“My whole mission is give young people an opportunity to get their foot in the door,” Mr. Hulton said. “Once you get your foot in door in this discipline, there’s lot of progression and opportunity from there.”

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