Santa is not at the North Pole or at the local mall or out feeding his reindeer. Instead, he most likely is working in a warehouse, cataloging, taking inventory and readying the season's most popular items for shipment.
Forget the sleigh, too. And his elves are enrolled in the Dallas County Community College District's logistics technician program, where they are learning the art of storing and moving goods from warehouses to consumers' eager hands.
Whether you shop online or in a store, logistics professionals have a hand – robotic or the human kind – on every item that ends up in your home…and not just toys.
"Our business culture requires a fast movement of product," said Jeffrey Wendt, who directs the North Lake College logistics program, based at the school's North Campus in Coppell. He calls logistics "the glue that holds everything together." And North Lake logistics students can earn certificates or an associate's degree in that field.
Logistics encompasses a fast-growing field of experts who determine how consumer goods are inventoried, warehoused and distributed. The demand for experts in this field threatens to outstrip those who are qualified to fill those slots, Wendt said.
Trends in the Marketplace
Logistics also is one of the largest and fastest-growing industries in the country. Technology is expanding, which is critical in an economy where time is money and there's none of either to waste. Computer-based tracking technology lets vendors knows where their products are located at all times, whether the items are in the warehouse, on a truck or in a store. Companies like Amazon, a leader in e-commerce, is pushing to meet the demand in this specialized field of getting materials from a company to its consumers in record time, Wendt said.
"As we demand more, logistics becomes more important," Wendt added. "We used to order things as kids out of a catalog, and it would take six weeks to get arrive. Now everything is overnight. Everything is immediate. No one would wait six weeks for a toy or furniture or anything. This is a fast-growing field."
The statistics support Wendt's words.
The job outlook for logistics experts is better than most fields with a 22 percent projected growth by 2022, according to the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics. That growth is determined by the role logistics plays in transporting goods. Median pay is $72,780 per year or about $34.99 hourly.
Students learn online and take courses on campus. Among those courses is an introduction to business logistics and the economics of transportation and distribution.
Student Success Stories
Dustin McCarty, 19, was unsure of what he wanted to study when he enrolled in college.
During registration at North Lake, his father noticed a placard on a wall touting logistics and the potential pay for its graduates.
"He said, 'Hey, why not this!" recalled McCarty, who is enrolled in Wendt's logistics night course. "I hadn't even thought about it."
McCarty, a 2014 graduate of Coppell High School, added, "You can make a lot of money, so I got interested right away." Initially, he planned to pursue a computer science degree but then decided to enroll in the introductory logistics course.
"Logistics is my career," said McCarty, who is attending college full time and may pursue a certificate as well as an associate degree.
Logistics is designed for people who want to analyze supply chains, and the Dallas Fort-Worth area – with its expanding distribution industry – is at the crux of getting products where they need to be in the shortest time span. Experts in the field are employed in manufacturing, professional, scientific and technical companies as well as transportation and aerospace.
DFW Is the Logistics Hub
Companies like FedEx, the Container Store and Target all have huge distribution centers here in the Dallas Metroplex, creating a logistics hub. North Lake logistics technology program faculty members hope to produce skilled, knowledgeable students for those workforce needs.
"Logistics is the future. Logistics is now," said Wendt. "The field is appealing to younger students but also attracts individuals who have degrees in other fields but who are unable to find work."
Ethan Williams is one of those students. He, too, was attracted to the potential high pay offered in logistics, but he also wanted job security. He is sharpening his post-secondary credentials in Wendt's class.
After graduating with a degree in business management, Williams said, "I got out and couldn't find a job." Eventually he drifted to sales, but that profession quickly lost its appeal. A marketing job for a small business left him unmotivated and unchallenged.
Last year, Williams took a job packing boxes at a Dallas warehouse and liked what he saw. He took careful note of the operation and how the warehouse was managed. The goods were packaged, cataloged and organized for distribution.
Williams knew then that he had to return to school. With an eye toward the future, he enrolled in North Lake's logistics program. "I understand how things move," said Williams, who is married with two children. "I realized that's how I'm geared. I found my calling."
Williams, an Irving resident, is seeking a technician certificate and ultimately an associate degree. He wants to manage a warehouse or enter transportation management.
To earn a technician certificate, students must learn the central concepts used in logistics and supply chain management. They also gain an understanding of the transportation network, and they will apply these principles in the business world.
Transportation, Wendt said, plays a huge role in logistics. "The growth potential in this field is impressive," he said. "We are appealing to younger students even though the median age for this type of work was 35. The younger students are holding their own."
Students find the work fast-paced but challenging. They will graduate with an associate degree or will receive certificates in a workforce that is ready to receive them. And they also will hone their people skills, Wendt said.
"They will have to build relationships with suppliers and determine what their needs are," Wendt said. "Every warehouse is different, depending on their needs," Wendt said. "But efficiency and professionalism are always in demand."