Preparing Tomorrow’s Supply Chain Leaders: The Importance of Technology Skills and Experience

With the logistics industry growing at 22 percent annually, both shippers and transportation providers are searching for workers who have what it takes to succeed in their line of work, which increasingly is being driven by information technology.

Likewise, colleges and universities want to prepare new entrants to not just gain a foothold in the logistics industry but to hit the ground running and advance their careers. More than ever before, this means providing students with hands-on experience using enterprise software applications, such as transportation management systems (TMS).

Chattahoochee Technical College is a perfect example. As a member of our MercuryGate University program, which provides students with free access to our transportation management system, students spend a month using the TMS while taking the final, capstone course in the college’s Logistics and Supply Chain Management degree program. Students use self-paced, online training to learn the ins-and-outs of the software, and then put it to use by solving real-world examples and case studies.

“The program has been a perfect fit for Chattahoochee Technical College,” says Douglas McElhaney, an adjunct professor who helped create the curriculum for the college. “The good thing about the TMS is that it helps to teach students how to really manage transportation costs. It’s a great teaching tool to explain how important it is to manage not only inventory but also data and information. The more information you have, the better your decisions will be. It has been very educational and a great opportunity. Learning to use the TMS enables students to find the most cost-effective way to move freight across all modes for both international and domestic supply chains.” Students can also create multiple “what-if” scenarios to analyze alternative transportation plans based on real-world parameters.

Forsyth Technical Community College in Winston-Salem, N.C., is another example. “Using the TMS allowed us to give students a real-world experience which has been very important,” says Demetria Ledbetter, program coordinator for the associate’s degree in Global Logistics Business Administration. “The program has given students the opportunity to see what a TMS is, and by understanding how a TMS works, students are more marketable and competitive.”

Students enrolled in the degree program at Forsyth Tech spend about three months using the software, where they apply the theories they have learned in the curriculum, including how important data integrity is to achieving good results. Students and faculty also learn to use the more advanced features of the TMS, including optimization practices to consolidate shipments and minimize miles, costs, and CO2 emissions.

The program gives users secure logins along with hosting of the application and data to make the TMS easy to deploy both inside and outside of a classroom setting. For example, faculty can use the full TMS suite outside the classroom to conduct their own special research projects or to provide business consulting.

The bottom line is that just having a higher education is no longer sufficient to be competitive in the market. You also need technology skills, knowledge, and experience, which employers greatly value. Educators are tasked with challenging the future workforce — that is, with creating a hands-on learning environment where students can harness and develop these technology skills, making sure that future logisticians are prepared and ready to take on the challenges of a demanding world and fickle economy.

MarshaVacircaMarsha Vacirca is the Program Director for MercuryGate University where her major focus is exposing students to the company’s transportation management software. An advocate for education, Marsha has always sought ways to support students with the transition from high school to college and from college to post graduate school or the workforce. She spent her early career as a Higher Education Administrator where she focused on matching students with rigorous and competitive college programs that would help prepare them for not only a successful college experience but also a successful career post-graduation. In addition to her Six sigma Certification, Marsha earned a master’s degree in Communications and Information Management and graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelors of Science degree in Business Administration.