New AAS in Logistics Engineering Technology Fills Talent Gap in Emerging TDL Occupations

If you ask most companies in shipping or logistics if it is possible to hire someone with an associate degree who knows logistics, engineering, and information technology, they will tell you that such graduates do not exist, and they would be right. But, graduates with this unique set of skills will be hitting the workforce in just two years thanks to a new AAS program coming out of Columbus State Community College in Columbus, Ohio where the first class of students have enrolled in the degree program and begun their instruction this fall.

“I was excited to see this degree was being created. It fills a gap that has been out there for some time,” said Jeremy Banta, Lead Faculty for the Supply Chain Management program at Columbus State.

The new AAS degree in Logistics Engineering Technology (LET) was formed after collecting input from area employers who helped the college identify the skills and knowledge requirements for this evolving occupation. The degree brings together core competencies in accounting and finance, communication, information technology (IT), leadership, and logistics. It also brings in technical knowledge from industrial engineering technology and electro-mechanical engineering technology.

“What we’ve recognized is it’s difficult to find the right people with the right skill sets,” said Brandon Andrews, Senior Corporate Learning & Development Manager at Intelligrated, which is part of Honeywell. “We’re looking for a certain level of aptitude or proficiency before we bring them on.”

Andrews points out that the increasingly automated logistics field relies on sophisticated systems representing investments in the tens of millions of dollars. His company does not hire inexperienced people to run or maintain such systems. They are looking for well-trained people who have chosen the occupation and who are prepared with the training they need to get up to speed quickly.

“The Logistics Engineering Technology program at Columbus State encompasses the more technical aspects together with the operations piece and how the systems all interact with the facility, as a whole,” said Andrews.

The goal of the AAS program is to have students graduate with an understanding of the fundamentals of IT and computer science, principals of engineering, and fundamentals of logistics so they can talk to all these groups.

“The main rationale for the degree is to combine logistics with engineering technologies,” said Tara Sheffer, Grant Coordinator at Columbus State. “We know logistics is changing, we know distribution is changing, we know there is a skills gap.”

The new degree program was developed with a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program, which specifically aims to help community colleges develop academic programs for the education of technicians for high-technology fields important to the nation’s economy.

“Columbus State recognized early on that most students in the Supply Chain Management degree program were returning adults,” said Banta. To accommodate these students, 50 to 75 percent of the courses for the LET degree can be completed online.

Industry partnerships were key to the development of this degree program. They will also be key to future evolution of this program, which is slated to include a work study component and internship requirement.

Columbus State is also working to develop a third phase to this program, referred to as a “two plus two plus two” pathway. In this model, students embark on a career pathway beginning the last two years of high school. Then, they complete a two-year degree program at a community college followed by two years at a university to earn a bachelor’s degree.

As they move forward, the college will continuously work to identify and predict emerging technologies and trends affecting logistics occupations. Their goal is to continuously update the curriculum to meet evolving needs within the workforce.

“I always joke that an English professor does not necessarily have to be out in industry to see what’s new going on in their area. But, we do,” said Banta. “At least once a week we’re taking a tour, talking to an industry leader, or attending a conference so we can hear about what is new out there and what gaps need to be filled. For instance, a lot of employers right now are saying soft skills are a problem. Employees know how to do regression analysis, but they don’t know how to write an email.”

For more information about the degree program, visit the Columbus State website. Information about the curriculum and how it was developed may be found on the Columbus State website page for the grant project. To learn more about collaborating with Columbus State, contact Tara Sheffer at tsheffer@cscc.edu.