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GRCC offers new certification in Supply Chain Operations Management

Area employers see need for qualified workers

While Santa Claus may have elves for toy-making and Rudolph to guide his sleigh, many West Michigan companies need more qualified manpower to ensure the economical and efficient production of items and delivery to wherever they need to go — and fast.

And as people increasingly rely on the click of a mouse or phone to do their shopping, the roadmap of logistics keeps widening and becoming more globally interconnected.

Grand Rapids Community College is paving the way to equip people with introductory skills — and meet the needs of employers — to manage all facets of bringing goods from producer to consumer as seamlessly as those bow-tied presents come from the North Pole, down the chimney and end up under the Christmas tree.

The delivery of goods is part of the supply chain

The new Supply Chains Operations Management certificate, a five-course, 16-17 credit program beginning next semester will help students land jobs across industries in procurement, production, distribution, maintenance and inventory management. On top of that, credits can be used toward a general business associate degree.

Pam Miller, associate dean of operations in the School of Workforce Development, said the certificate is the first entry-level educational opportunity in supply chain operations management in Michigan. “It’s kind of a niche I feel very strongly about,” she said.

It’s been in the works for two years as the community college assessed local demand and developed courses with input from industry experts, including APICS Grand Rapids Chapter.

“Supply chain management helps organizations do the things they are doing but do it smarter,” said  Matheta Righa, GRCC assistant professor of business administration, who is teaching courses for the certificate program. “You are going to save the company money and time.”

Jobs in Supply Chain Operations Management include:

  • production, planning and expediting clerk
  • master scheduler, production scheduler
  • material coordinator, materials planner, procurement clerk
  • production assistant, production clerk, production coordinator, production planner
  • operations manager
  • cargo and freight agent, freight broker, freight forwarder, export coordinator
  • intermodal dispatcher, international coordinator, logistics coordinator
  • shipping and receiving clerk/coordinator, traffic manager
  • account manager
  • transportation manager, storage and distribution manager

Jobs are Waiting

GRCC staff worked with various local employers including GE Aviation, SpartanNash, Haulers and Storage Inc., Griffin Transportation, and Meijer to determine needs. The 10-year forecast for Supply Chain Operations Management jobs indicates a growth rate of 11 percent in Michigan, adding 241 jobs in the region between 2016 and 2026.

An additional 273 openings are projected annually due to retirements and replacements during the same 10-year period, according to information from GRCC.

GRCC’s program is tying together various pieces of knowledge needed in managing the supply chain, said Randall Gilbert, past president of APICS Grand Rapids Chapter. He said employers are currently seeing a gap in the skill sets of employees with a college degree and those without.

“It isn’t unusual for a company to hire an engineer, for example, that can do the math on a new process, but has no idea how things work on the production floor,” Gilbert said. “The production worker can build product, but can’t relate to design or process concerns.”

The certificate program is addressing those gaps. “This can bring new ideas, greater collaboration and a shifting of responsibilities across job functions for everyone’s benefit,” Gilbert said.

An Evolving Industry

In terms of getting things from point A to point Z and everywhere in between, it’s an ever-changing process, Miller said. The industry is adapting to the closing of brick and mortar stores; new services like Shipt, which provides grocery delivery for Meijer; and drones that will soon land on porches with packages.

“Customers are far more demanding than they were just a few years ago,” Gilbert added. “They want things fast, inexpensive and with 100 percent quality — thank you Amazon.

“As a result, industry is working to build fast, efficient and transparent global supply chains. Change is unending and driven by technology. Successful organizations will need to invest in both technology and training to keep up.”

Moving products from point A to B, C and on isn’t as simple as Santa makes it look

Speaking of Amazon, the shipping giant is opening a sortation and fulfillment center in Gaines Township, at 4500 68th St. SE, which is expected to add up to 1,000 jobs to the region.

The median wage for production, planning and expediting (PPE) clerks is $23 per hour and the starting wage is between $14.58 and $18.46 per hour. (Wages for PPE Clerks in West Michigan are slightly higher than both Michigan and the national average.)

A search on OnetOnline shows more than 1,000 occupations in supply chain operations management.

At supercenter chain Meijer Inc., the GRCC certificate could give new employees a potential head start in working their way up in the company, said Kristy Jones, manager of Leadership Development Programs at Meijer.

“We see an increasingly competitive talent pipeline. It’s even more important for prospective team leaders to set themselves apart,” Jones said. “There is so much opportunity in our business to grow — endless opportunities, especially for  people who enter with the right skills.”


The new supply chain: four ways smart leaders can shake up logistics

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is managing editor and reporter, covering Kentwood, Lowell and Wyoming. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013, and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio


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