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Education Programs

By Debbie Briner
From the March 2013 issue of Columbus CEO

It’s a field ripe with a range of good jobs. That’s likely one reason that logistics programs are drawing more students, while area colleges and universities enhance their coursework to ensure they provide job-ready skills.

The demand for entry-level logistics positions is strong. But there is also a growing need for management employees as the industry continues to become more competitive, sophisticated and technology-driven. Several local schools offer logistics-focused programs.

Long recognized as one of the top programs in the country, Ohio State University’s logistics-related undergraduate and master’s degree programs are seeing significant enrollment increases, says Walter Zinn, a logistics professor who chairs the Fisher College of Business Marketing and Logistics Department.

In addition, all Fisher students take logistics coursework. That, Zinn says, typically results in additional students choosing logistics as their major.

OSU’s two master’s programs—Operations and Logistics Management, offered jointly with the Fisher MBA program, and Business Logistics Engineering—are a big draw. Eight years ago, Zinn says, nine students were enrolled in the Business Logistics Engineering program. That leaped to 46 in fall 2012. Only Georgia Tech and MIT offer similar programs, he says.

Business Logistics Engineering offers one of the few opportunities nationwide to study logistics strategy, managing logistics operations and engineering as it relates to designing logistics facilities and implementing technology. Students in the program “have a very strong background in mathematics and statistics. And we give them some training in business,” says Zinn. “They’re not just techies.”

Business-related education includes coursework in leadership, human resources, finance and accounting. Students also earn industry experience by working on projects that require logistics solutions for major companies such as Honda and Whirlpool. Zinn says OSU’s logistics programs benefit from partnerships with the business community, and students gain valuable experience by completing consulting projects for companies.

At Franklin University, bachelor’s and master’s degrees programs are offered in operations and supply chain management. Other area colleges include logistics coursework in their business programs.

Columbus State Community College offers a three-week job training program that has helped hundreds of workers land new jobs. The school’s Center for Workforce Development offers the LogisticsART (Attract and Retain Talent) program that provides coursework and onsite skills training for certification.

LogisticsART graduation statistics tell an interesting story: 476 of its nearly 800 graduates were unemployed for at least six months before completing the program and another 216 were displaced for less than six months. Most graduates—269—were ages 45 to 54.

Jeff Zimmerman, director of the Columbus Region Logistics Council, earned logistics certification at Columbus State, though he notes, “I think I am atypical. In my particular case, I had a professional background in the private sector in a consulting capacity, and I was looking to better understand the program.”

The additional training, Zimmerman says, helped lead him to his leadership role with the logistics council, a Columbus Chamber advocacy group that keeps abreast of issues such as infrastructure and workforce development.

Even entry-level logistics jobs often are with good companies that offer excellent benefits, says Kenny McDonald, chief economic officer for Columbus 2020.

Area employers recognize the quality of graduates from Central Ohio’s 54 colleges and universities. That’s one of the reasons Zipline Logistics chose Columbus to set up shop. “We knew that we wanted to grow our business on the back of younger employees so that we could train people to do it our way,” says CEO Walter Lynch.