Containers at the Port of Los Angeles. (Photo Credit: Wendell/Flickr)
More than 1.8 million military veterans live in California, the most of any state in the country. They often leave the service with skills that, with additional training, are valuable to the private sector. And now educators and employers are capitalizing on veterans’ experience in logistics to build up one region’s workforce.
“Veterans are in many ways a natural because they are introduced to the world of logistics in a very critical way in the military,” said Tom O’Brien, executive director of Center for International Trade & Transportation (CITT) at California State University Long Beach (CSULB). “They’re users of an important logistics network that, in some cases, has commercial applications as well.”
The CITT instituted this year a pilot program that outreaches to veterans for its Global Logistics Specialist (GLS) professional designation program. The GLS program, which was started in 1997, teaches students the logistics involved in the global movement of goods and supply chain management.
In fact, many functions in the military are similar to the private sector, says Angeli Logan, director of Trade and Transportation Programs for the CITT at CSULB.
“There are a lot of things that they learn as far as transferability of skills that they learn in the military,” said Logan. “It’s just learning the terminology and how it operates in the business setting.”
To complete the GLS program, students must complete six courses, learning about the big picture of global goods movement and finishing off with the final project of creating their own logistics plan. Veterans bulid on their previous experience with a different kind of logistics network, or “things about warehousing that they do on the fly, where they set them up on location and take them down, but here you have a built function, where there it’s more of a ‘set it up and take it down,’” added Logan.
The program can take as little as six months or as long as two years to complete, depending on how many classes the students can take at a time. Many of the students are working while enrolled in the program. Additionally, the program can be completed in person or online, which allows enrollment of students from across the country and abroad.
CITT also works with local professional organizations such as the Los Angeles Transportation Club to make sure veterans in the program can attend transportation-related events free of charge. This allows the veterans to make connections and learn about the industry outside the classroom.
According to O’Brien, employers can be eager to hire veterans trained in logistics and supply chain management because of a variety of reasons.
“They do want people who demonstrate strong work ethic, who have some soft skills, who are comfortable working in groups, who are OK with public speaking, who have some familiarity with spreadsheets,” said O’Brien. “And for many employers, they view the military as this training ground for a lot of those soft skills.”
Long Beach City College (LBCC) recently partnered with CITT to create a program similar to GLS as part of a consortium of colleges of universities tasked to develop training and academic programs leading to industry-recognized credentials. LBCC will develop content and provide testing leading to a new Council of Supply Chain Management Professional certification targeting displaced workers and veterans. It was made possible through the U.S. Department of Labor Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training grant program.
This particular workforce initiative was highlighted by the Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office, as a good example of regional groups working together to address nearby industry needs, especially in a region with the two major ports on one end and the Inland Empire logistics hub on the other.
Giving veterans the resources they need to transfer the skills they learned in the military to the private sector should help round out the region’s economy by providing a stronger and more employable workforce.