Driven in part by consumer confidence and today’s high-speed e-commerce ecosystem, New Jersey’s ever-growing transportation, logistics and distribution (TLD) sector needs skilled workers. The Transportation, Logistics & Distribution Talent Network, hosted by NJIT and Essex County College (in partnership and through a grant funded by the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development), strives to not only gather the best information about the types of workers the sector needs, but to also grow the trained workforce.
While the TLD sector now supports more than 370,000 New Jersey workers, many older truck drivers, for example, are set to retire from the workforce, and new drivers must be found. Simultaneously, some high school graduates remain unaware that a wide range of quality careers can be had in the TLD industry.
Carmen Pichardo, co-director of the TLD Talent Network, says, “We suffer because of a lack of marketing, [people’s] lack of knowledge about how wide our sector really is, and the [career] opportunities that are in the sector. That’s why it’s important for us to be able to get to young people, and also to get to other workers, because it seems people ‘fall into’ this work. They don’t seek it out. We need to transform that, because the workforce is retiring in the next five to 10 years.”
Regardless of the various TLD jobs, there are many long-term career-advancement opportunities, and, as Gale Tenen Spak, PhD, associate vice president, continuing professional education, at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (who is also principal investigator for the Advanced Manufacturing, Technology and TLD Talent Network), says, “The force is going towards real, true, career pathways, so no one is stuck in a dead-end job, in a warehouse, fulfilling orders.”
For instance, what might be termed an apprenticeship program, but is technically known as the “registered internship program,” allows students to work in the TLD sector while attaining degrees and/or other credentials. Spak adds, “The key thing about registered internships is that starts working early on, and can [advance]. But, at the same time, [he or she] is studying part-time toward a degree or credential. That’s a real switch from: ‘Everyone has to go to college, right away,’ to, ‘No, go to work.’”
She adds, “Still, you have a structured approach to getting that degree or that credential, so that you can go on with your life, get a family-sustaining paycheck, contribute to our state, to your living situation – and your family.”
While the Port of New York/New Jersey often garners much attention for its massive TEU (containerized) tonnage and because it supports 336,600 jobs, the ports in South Jersey are especially noteworthy for bulk and breakbulk cargo such as imported foods that often travel further than the immediate region.
Whether it is moving fruit, cocoa beans or TEUs, again, technology is permeating nearly every corner of the TLD sector, ranging from port operations and trucks, to distribution center operations and tracking the movement of goods. In this way, trained workers will be increasingly critical to the sector’s success.
For example, amid an array of TLD Talent Network efforts, Co-Director John Taggart is set to visit a high school next week that may want a supply chain transportation logistics program.
The TLD sector might be the best career pathway for many people, and, as Spak concludes, “The Talent Networks’ role is to hear the voice of industries, but from the perch of their workforce needs. There a lot of things that companies in any of the seven [TLD] sectors can tell you they need from the state, country or stockholders … the Talent Networks – as per their name – focus on workforce talent gaps, needs, skills and competencies. And they get that information from companies by meeting on the ground, on their feet, with companies. It isn’t just the passing, ‘Let’s have a meeting.’ It is ‘Let’s have a summit,’ [for example].”