Effingham County native Jason Lovett remembers when, not too long ago, students didn’t have many opportunities to tour local industries.
Lovett, now the vice president of the CST Covers plant in the Effingham Industrial Park, has seen the area grow from “a community with no industry whatsoever — just a gas station in Rincon — to a community with quite a bit of industry.”
To provide students an up-close look at the workings of its facility, CST Covers gave a tour last week to 14 students in the logistics management pathway at the Effingham College and Career Academy.
“We didn’t have the opportunities growing up that these kids have,” Lovett said, “and I feel like, as a community partner, we should provide them at least the ability to come in and see what we do.”
The logistics management program is a new addition this year to the College and Career Academy’s curriculum. The ECCA’s board decides which programs to offer based on the jobs it expects to be available when students graduate.
The U.S. logistics industry will have more than one million job openings between 2013 and 2016 just to keep pace with projected industry growth, according to a report by the Savannah-based Georgia Center of Innovation for Logistics. That projected job growth, combined with Effingham County’s proximity to the Port of Savannah and Interstates 95 and 16, made the logistics program a logical fit for ECCA.
“I know that (logistics) is a big deal in Georgia, especially with the ports, so there’s a potentially good career to come out of it,” said Luke Usher, one of the logistics students who took the tour.
“Logistics is in every business, every industry, so it opens up opportunities all over,” said Barbara Prosser, CEO of Effingham College and Career Academy. “The port (of Savannah) is expanding, and our (local) businesses will expand too as a result of that, so there will be great opportunities for the students still to live in Effingham and work in our area and continue to add to the economic engine here.”
The logistics pathway is taught by ECCA’s Director of Business Logistics Management, Ashley Kieffer. He said the school “got in on the ground floor” by being one of the first in the state to offer the program.
The tour of CST Covers “really brought to life” what the students are studying in class, Kieffer said. For example, they could see the actual operations of equipment used for manufacturing, warehousing and shipping.
“As we were going through the plant, several students made comments like, ‘Mr. Kieffer, those are the roller conveyers we talked about yesterday,’” he said. “I said, ‘Exactly, now you see it. I showed you a picture, I told you about it, and now you see its application in real life.’”
However, the students saw more than just equipment demonstrations on the tour; they observed all aspects of manufacturing and logistics. The students were shown production from start to finish of the industrial domes CST Covers makes at its Rincon plant, and then were walked through the intricate process of shipping and tracking the products every step of the way to their destinations.
“It was really beneficial because we read the book so much (in class), but it’s not the real thing,” Usher said. “To actually get on the ground floor and see how fast everything is going and how all the paperwork is switching hands, we can really take something from it to help us in the future.”
Like Usher, classmate Amanda Godwin plans to pursue a career in logistics. She said she finds the field “really interesting,” particularly “how little things make such a big impact on the shipping for the stuff we use every day.”
Although CST Covers is not as large as other local industries such as Georgia-Pacific and Efacec, Lovett plans to continue to provide an open door for students to visit and learn.
“We want to be involved with the community,” he said. “Even though we’re small, I feel like we still make an impact — even if it’s on one student.”