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Five Ways Coastline College’s Logistics/Supply Chain Management Program is Putting OC Careers in the Fast Lane Programs
When you go home tonight, chances are you’ll find a package of some sort waiting on your doorstep. It’s so commonplace these days, most of us don’t think twice about how it got there. But that package has a story to tell. And it’s a story that only has a happy ending due to the hard work of the logistics and supply chain management industry.
“It’s so much more than trucking,” says Erin Thomas, a Coastline business professor and lead faculty for the Logistics/Supply Chain Management program. “It’s more than ships and trucks and factories. It’s about high-level management of strategic business partnerships all along a supply chain. There’s something for everybody here—whether you’re into cosmetics or furniture or cars, every business has these needs. For students with a passion for a specific industry, they can combine that with a supply chain degree and do very well.”
As the only supply chain management program in Orange County, Coastline College’s fully online Logistics/Supply Chain Management degree and certificate programs, which are offered by Coastline’s business department, give students a firm foundation in the complex matrix that is supply chain management. Founded in 2010 by longtime Coastline business professor Rick Lockwood, Coastline’s program teaches students the ins and outs of supply chain management as it follows the life cycle of a product from development to manufacture and distribution.
Why Choose Logistics/Supply Chain Management
Thomas’s first experience with supply chain management came as an employee of Qualcomm in the days before it was a public company as a software developer in the IT department. As the company grew, so did Thomas’s career, which eventually included an Executive MBA from UC Irvine and transitioning to a smaller division where her focus moved from creating technology to selling it.
“My first exposure as a software developer came as we were buying parts, tracking those purchases, tracking our inventory, and shipping it out,” says Thomas. “After I got my MBA, the products we sold were primarily to overseas buyers. So, I got a great opportunity to work with customers in Japan, China, Korea, and Brazil, which really helped me see the whole picture of what a supply chain is with all of its moving parts.”
Today, those “moving parts” are moving faster than ever due to technological advancements and an industry-wide focus on automation and optimization. Thomas points to the emergence of data analytics as an example.
“In the early 2000s, the focus was on implementing systems and automating individual steps in the supply chain,” says Thomas. “Today, those systems are fairly automated, so the need is for people who can look at those systems and make them better, while also dealing with unexpected disruptions.”
Not surprisingly, this need is significant given Orange County’s close proximity to the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, the two largest ports in the country.
“The occupations that fall under the supply chain umbrella are in huge demand,” says Jaime Gonzalez, Orange County regional director for employer engagement for the advanced transportation and logistics (ATL) sector.
“These companies are desperate for degreed talent,” adds Thomas. “When I go to events, I hear company after company complaining about how hard it is to find good people. There is tremendous opportunity for students here.”
Here are the top five reasons students should consider logistics/supply chain careers:
- High Demand – Logistics is a high-demand field that experienced growth even in the height of the recession. Now, the field is expanding even more, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicting a seven percent job growth between 2016 and 2026.
- High Pay – As of May 2018, the median annual pay for a logistician in the United States was $74,590, or $35.86 per hour. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the lowest 10 percent earned less than $44,820, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $120,120.
- Low Barrier to Entry – Although some roles require more advanced training, a large percentage of jobs in the field are middle-skilled, requiring only an associate degree or certificate.
- Opportunities for Promotions – While there are many opportunities for professionals to start in the field with just a certificate, obtaining an associate degree will make it easier to quickly climb the corporate ladder. For those looking to advance even faster and farther, Coastline’s Logistics/Supply Chain Management courses also align with the logistics programs at CSU Fullerton and Long Beach to make transferring easy.
- Local Job Availability – If you are looking to find work in your backyard, look no further! This career has broad demand across the state and the country, and especially in Orange County because of a large number of warehousing and third-party logistics providers and its proximity to the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles.
To put this need in context, a recent Orange County Center of Excellence analysis of the ATL sector reported that there were 209 job openings for logisticians in 2017 but zero degrees or certificates awarded by any institution in that occupation (Coastline’s programs serve different but related jobs). Considering that this occupation pays a median wage of more than $40 an hour, the opportunity is significant for both students and colleges.
At Coastline, industry demand has pushed the number of degrees and certificates awarded from 37 in 2014/15 to 121 in 2018/19, an increase of 327 percent. This success, and the need it reflects, has led Regional Director Jaime Gonzalez to propose the creation of an integrated effort to expand logistics and supply chain management programs and course offerings to more Orange County community colleges.
“The need is there,” says Gonzalez. “What we need now is the infrastructure. Given Coastline’s success, we have a great model to start from.”
While this project is still in its infancy, Thomas and Gonzalez both agree that the need for well-educated employees in this field will only continue to grow.
“There are whole sets of new careers that didn’t exist 10 years ago,” says Thomas. “For example, supply chain analysts, whose job it is to understand and refine product flows outside of a company’s walls, and supply chain managers, who supervise a company’s relationships with third-party providers.”
Thomas also notes how great these degrees are for those with military experience, especially those with military occupational specialties (MOSs) related to unit supply maintenance (Army MOS 92Y and Marine MOS 3043, for example). Called “Army unit supply specialists” or “Marine supply administration and operations specialists,” these service members are primarily responsible for supervising or performing tasks related to the general upkeep and maintenance of unit supplies and equipment.
“These veterans are highly sought after by companies who love to hire them,” says Thomas. “It’s a super natural fit because they can take their actual work experience in the military and match it with a technical education and be ready very quickly for some really high-paying jobs.”
Ranked a 2019 “Best College for Vets” by MilitaryTimes.com, Coastline has a long history of providing flexible education options to military service members.
Practical Focus on Skills Employers Need
As focused as Coastline is on providing technical skills, they’re also focused on creating well-rounded students with the soft skills today’s employers require. In addition to two courses that give students specific expertise in logistics and supply chain management, other core courses include Human Resource Management, Human Relations in Business, and Business Organization and Management.
“What we hear over and over again from employers is that they need employees with ‘soft skills,’ like critical thinking and customer service,” says Thomas. “That’s why we require students to take courses that teach them how to lead teams, build relationships, and think critically.”
Thomas points to the recent issue of tariffs as a case in point.
“When the trade war began, businesses all over the country had to scramble to figure out the cost implications,” explains Thomas. “It’s not well understood, but when you apply a tariff to a product, that tariff is not paid by the country, it’s paid by the U.S. company importing the product. So, when this happened, everyone was scrambling to find alternate suppliers, which of course has a ripple effect all the way down a company’s supply chain. This is the kind of high-level business analyses we’re training students to perform.”
Going forward, Thomas is excited about a project that will align Coastline’s curriculum with SCPro™ Fundamentals, a suite of industry certifications offered by the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals, the industry’s major trade organization.
“The idea is to build the preparation for those exams into our courses,” says Thomas. “That way, when students complete their programs, they’ll also be prepared to take the exams for these certifications, which will make them even more attractive to employers.”
Thomas is also excited about the possibility of developing internships that could be offered remotely to students no matter where they lived.
“Our challenge is that we’re fully online, obviously,” says Thomas. “But I also see a great opportunity for not just teaching students how to be a great employee, but how to be a great remote employee. Telecommuting is becoming more and more common across industries, so teaching students how to navigate this new world would be really beneficial. There’s a whole set of future skills that we are in a great position to teach.”
And, of course, preparing students for the future is what Coastline’s Logistics/Supply Chain Management program is all about.
For more information about Coastlines Logistics/Supply Chain Management program, visit https://www.coastline.edu/programs/business-management.php.