Harrison College trying to ramp-up logistics degree offering

August 25, 2012

Nearly a year after launching an associate degree with input from industry leaders trying to solve a logistics skills gap, Harrison College wants to offer logistics classes closer to where potential students work.

Many of the region’s distribution facilities are concentrated to the west in Hendricks County and on the northwest side of Indianapolis. Harrison has a campus on that side of the city, near interstates 465 and 865, but now offers the courses only at its downtown campus and online.

Marvin Bailey, president of Harrison’s northwest-side campus, 6300 Technology Drive, said he’s hoping to get approval to offer the program next year at the suburban location close to distribution facilities. The college’s accreditation organization has to give that an OK, first, however.

Holt Holt

“If they could offer it on the northwest side or Hendricks County, I think it would boom,” said David Holt, a vice president of logistics and manufacturing initiative Conexus Indiana, which developed a logistics skills template that Harrison used to develop curriculum.

Harrison won’t say how many students are enrolled in the new, two-year logistics program. That might reflect the broader challenge industry leaders face in making logistics careers appealing.

“I’ve taught several classes that nobody’s ever heard of and one of them is logistics,” said Bailey.

Industry leaders said many young people have a misconception about logistics careers as being little more than forklift toil. Yet the field today is technology intensive and can pay well. The average logistics/manufacturing wage in the region is on the order of 33 percent higher than the state’s median income.

Harrison’s 96-credit, two-year degree includes a focus on computers and office automation, transportation management and procurement/sourcing.

Harrison officials consider the courses to be on the cutting edge of what’s happening in the industry. They had help from Conexus and industry leaders such as Coca-Cola in developing the program.

“This was the first [school] to design a specific curriculum based around those skills,” Holt said.

“Technology is changing every day,” said Coke spokesman Roy Potts.

Coca-Cola is offering annual tuition reimbursement of up to $5,200 for employees who enroll in continuing education such as the Harrison program.

“What we’re finding is the industry is very concerned with the exit of the Baby Boomers,” Bailey said.

While many colleges in the state offer four-year degrees in supply chain management and logistics, entry-level workers in the industry need a faster way to advance in their logistics careers, such as to the level of supervisor, Holt noted.

Often, “you’re dead-ended without a college education,” Bailey said.

Bailey also has been taking steps he hopes will drive more students to logistics associate degrees in the future. For example, he’s in exploratory discussions with a tuition-free school for adults seeking to complete high school educations. Some of those students might be candidates for an associate degree in logistics.

Harrison isn’t the only college offering a logistics degree. Vincennes University long has had a program in logistics/supply-chain management, which it has tweaked to better conform to the skill sets desired by industry leaders.

Ivy Tech State College also has an offering, which is in the process of being expanded.

In January, Vincennes opened a logistics training center in the heart of warehouse heaven: Plainfield.

In Indiana more than 250,000 people work in warehouses/distribution centers, transportation companies and freight management firms. The state ranks ninth in per-capital logistics employment, according to Conexus.•


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