UWT, vets could be part of Tacoma’s recovery

Contributing writerNovember 11, 2012 

If you want to be a nurse, an engineer or an aerospace machinist, there are programs all over the state, at two- and four-year institutions, to learn your trade.

So where do you go if you want to learn international trade, shipping and logistics, to join the shipping, logistics or freight forwarding companies we – or at least some of us – think might make a nice addition to Tacoma’s business climate.

Wouldn’t it be an incentive to those companies to come here if, as a symbol of the community’s interest in building a cluster in that sector, there were certificate and degree programs based in the area turning out graduates with training, credentials and interest in it?

Why yes it would, said several readers responding to last week’s ruminations on the challenges to reviving Tacoma’s downtown.

One strategy, mentioned several times – all right, harped on – in this space, is to make Tacoma, which is already well-established in international trade thanks to its port, a magnet for headquarters and offices of companies that deal with moving goods and services.

That was a point taken up by an executive of a regionally based shipping company, who details a critical piece in turning that strategy into reality.

“You’re on to something by continuing to develop Tacoma as a fantastic spot for shippers, consolidators, freight forwarders, distributors, transportation companies of various types to set down roots here in Tacoma,” he wrote. “However, it is far less attractive for those who may wish to play here if they continue to need to recruit a well-trained and highly effective workforce from outside this area.

“A key factor in any company’s decision to relocate to better grounds will be its ability to recruit and build a well-educated and sustainable workforce. None of our regional educational institutions offer degree programs in supply chain, logistics or shipping of any kind. We’re getting by strictly on on-the-job training and that isn’t sufficient to build/maintain a highly skilled workforce worth relying on.”

The executive has a candidate in mind to offer such a degree: The University of Washington-Tacoma. “With Tacoma being a wonderful port facility and its neighboring communities having some of the largest available warehousing/distribution center facilities in the country, why is it that UWT offers no degree (undergraduate or graduate) programs, no continuing education (certificate) programs or any other program that would help us develop foundational skills within this community to make us even better? If we can get this great institution to develop programs that leverage these local capabilities, then I think we stand a much better chance of bringing moderate-to-heavyweight operations like Maersk, NYK, etc. to Tacoma.”

Interestingly, UWT’s parent in Seattle – you know, the one with the football team – is developing something like that, an online master’s degree program in supply chain transportation and logistics, due to start next September.

How about closer to home? The Center of Excellence for International Trade, Transportation and Logistics – located at Highline Community College – lists an associate of applied sciences degree at Tacoma Community College with a global logistics concentration. TCC also offers a certificate program in global transportation and secure logistics.

Another reader suggests an untapped source of expertise: “The nearby service branches are full of experts in engineering and logistics that are familiar with the area thanks to their base assignment. Upon leaving the military, their skills should be in high demand by local companies ... if only more of those companies existed.”

They could exist in Tacoma if, as one suspects, they’re less enamored with showplace offices with glorious views and more interested in the cost of space, proximity to their operations and support businesses and access to talent. Tacoma can provide those – but only if we’re of a mind to develop and promote them. Any takers?

Bill Virgin is editor and publisher of Washington Manufacturing Alert and Pacific Northwest Rail News. He can be reached at bill.virgin@yahoo.com.

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