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Industry Workforce Challenges – A Grass Roots Opportunity

By Liz Richards, Executive Vice President, MHEDA

I am writing my column on the second week after ProMat. Whew! If you participated in the show as MHEDA did, you are engaged in a flurry of follow up activity. Hat’s off to our friends at MHI who produced an incredible event full of engaging sessions, fantastic networking opportunities and record breaking attendance. We were thrilled to sign up 28 members at our booth and look forward to welcoming them into the association.

During the show, I was honored to participate in a panel discussion on “The Future of Material Handling, Supply Chain and Logistics” with my esteemed colleagues Rick Blasgen from CSCMP, Michael Mikitka from WERC and George Prest from MHI. During the session, which was superbly facilitated by Edie Wiener of Weiner, Edrich, Brown, Inc. (www.weineredrichbrown.com), we were asked what one thing we’d like to leave with the audience. While we all had varying comments, a common theme for all of us was a collective call to arms for a grass roots effort to reach out to the academic community, all toward the goal of bringing young talent into this industry. Coincidentally, there were dozens of students in the audience that morning, all attending Material Handling & Logistics Classroom Day, which was scheduled to begin immediately following the panel discussion. As you might imagine, these comments resonated well with our academic guests!

We owe a big thank you to all the companies and individuals who helped with Classroom Day at ProMat. Following an industry overview presentation, 240 students were organized into groups of 10 and assigned an industry tour guide who visited six pre-assigned exhibitors, each of whom provided a 15minute presentation about their company and their role within the supply chain. Prior to the guided tour, the students were assigned a case study to get them thinking about the products and technologies they’d be seeing and how they could be applied to the case study. Each group submitted a report for judging and a winning team was selected. Following this activity, the students heard from two recent graduates who are currently working in the industry to learn more about the types of careers available and to get recruiting advice. Thirty-six exhibitors and 29 industry professionals were part of Classroom Day and provided an invaluable service to these students and the faculty members in attendance. Thank you to everyone involved.

A grass roots effort like this is what we need to do collectively to recruit and hire these bright young adults. How can you get involved? First, identify schools (including technical schools and high schools!) in your area and cultivate a relationship with them. Offer to be a guest speaker, donate much needed equipment, host a site visit at your company and build these relationships. If you have not already hired interns, consider this tremendous opportunity to bring a fresh new perspective into your organization. Be sure to engage them at a professional level and take full advantage of their insight and knowledge. Go on the MHEDA website and under the Careers tab listen to the webinar about structuring an internship. Search the career center on our site for students who are seeking internships now. Fifty students have posted on our resume bank and are looking for internships with our members. Check it out! Attend the MHEDA Convention and meet the students who will be joining us from University of Nebraska at Kearny, East Carolina University, Purdue and Texas A & M. Together, we can address our workforce challenges and raise awareness about this rewarding industry.

As always, I would love to hear from you. Please call our office 847-680-3500 or email me at: lrichards@mheda.org.
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