Material handling offers good growth potential now and for the future. It is also becoming increasingly automated and technical (see our Sept. 29 post). So how can students interested in material handling as a growth career and current workers who want to move up position themselves to be in demand by employers today and into the future?
Industry experts agree that education is the key. While a high school diploma can still get you an entry-level job on the warehouse floor, it will take certified skills to maintain that job as the level of technology accelerates through the material handling, warehousing and logistics industries. Moving up the corporate ladder will increasingly require a bachelor’s degree. If you aspire to a management position, plan on putting in that extra year or two to get your MBA. Some colleges now offer concurrent bachelor/MBA programs and many offer night, weekend and online courses. Executive MBA programs geared to working business professionals provide an accelerated path to a higher degree by recognizing acquired experiential knowledge.
“Going into the future, not many people will have much success in their career progression without professional development of some kind,” warned Mark Ensby, director of Clarkson University’s Engineering & Global Operations Management Department. “The three most important credentialing letters today seem to be ‘MBA.'”
As automation and the global economy drive industry to greater integration, versatility and cross-industry knowledge will be increasingly valued. Students who combine material handling courses with industrial engineering, logistics, supply chain, warehousing, project management and computer systems studies will best position themselves for the future.
Partnerships between industry associations and universities are also expected to increase experiential learning. As it moves toward the future, material handling and associated industrial engineering industries will be looking for graduates with experiential learning, not just theoretical knowledge. “Associations like MHIA are going to play more and more of an important role in leveraging universities as the provider of skilled employees,” predicted Dan Boos, president of consulting firm Gorillas and Gazelles.
Mark Tomlinson, executive director of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers, has called for public schools to place greater emphasis on manufacturing as a viable career choice. Industry pressure is expected to increase two-year technical training opportunities in manufacturing, material handling, and industrial engineering fields. Tech schools, some beginning at the high school level, are seen as a quick way of solving the looming worker shortage in these industries. “The challenge is there just isn’t going to be enough of anybody for what’s needed,” Boos said.
“Over their lifetime, many of them (high school grads) will earn more because they started working sooner than those who took four or five years to finish college,” Tomlinson pointed out. “So we’ve got to get away from a good job/bad job mindset and encourage people to get some training.”