With the logistics and distribution sector booming in the Mobile area, Mobile County Public Schools is stepping up to meet the challenge of filling growing workforce needs with a new Distribution and Logistics Academy at Theodore High School.
Aided by partnerships with APM Terminals, the Alabama Port Authority, South Alabama Logistics Park and the Mobile Chamber of Commerce, and additional mentorship from Evonik, students will be introduced to the logistics field, learn industry-specific skills and processes, and study global logistics and supply chain management. Students can earn two certifications – Certified Logistics Associate and Certified Logistics Technician – that will position them to take advantage of the opportunities available locally in the industry at a time of unprecedented growth.
“We have two new logistics parks going in and inside of four years, they’re going to produce over 10,000 employees, so it’s quite essential that we start at the high school level, training people,” Theodore High School Principal Tim Hardegree said.
The Alabama Port Authority had its biggest year ever in 2022, setting a record in container units handled. APM Terminals is rapidly increasing its capacity to meet the increased traffic. South Alabama Logistics Park and other facilities are being developed and expanded to provide warehousing and distribution space.
“The growth in the last six years at the port has been phenomenal,” said John Driscoll, Director and CEO, Alabama Port Authority. “The actual container facility has been the fastest growing container terminal in the United States over the past six years in terms of percentages. We’ve seen growth in the warehousing, the distribution, the rail networks, really across all shipping that we see coming through this gateway, both import and export.”
Philip Burton, CEO of Burton Property Group, which is developing South Alabama Logistics Park, added: “Mobile is sitting pretty prime in a situation where we are in the beginning of a tectonic shift in industry and logistics. As the port continues to grow, sites like South Alabama Logistics Park are going to see a huge increase in business and industry moving into the park.”
This growth is fueling the need for an expanded workforce – a need that the Theodore High School Distribution and Logistics Academy is designed to help meet. Bradley Byrne, President and CEO of the Mobile Chamber of Commerce, said an estimated 2,000 employees will be needed at South Alabama Logistics Park alone.
“Where are these workers coming from? They’re the 3,000 high school seniors who graduate from Mobile County Public Schools each year,” Byrne said. “They’re our workforce, and we must reach them while they’re still in school to give them the education and skills they need for these careers. The Distribution and Logistics Academy will help ensure we meet the workforce needs of this booming industry that’s here to stay.”
Robert Kelley, Director of Commercial and Business Development, APM Terminals, added that the academy will provide a valuable introduction to the industry. “It’ll actually get a lot of students interested in a job or workforce that they’re not familiar with,” he said. “A lot of people want to go to college to be business management majors or engineers. A lot of people don’t look at the supply chain and logistics side. It’s almost an unknown entity. You’re always going to have shipping and logistics because you always need goods. As long as we need goods shipped and received, you’re always going to have a job.”
Mobile County Public Schools’ Signature Academies are small learning communities in each of its high schools that afford students the opportunity to participate in real-world, hands-on training and assignments connected to a specific career field. Signature Academies offer opportunities such as internships, job shadowing, workplace tours, and mentorship.