Thanks to e-commerce, demand for warehouse and distribution facilities has grown rapidly across North America. However, a tight labor market for blue collar jobs is making it harder for warehouse operators to recruit and retain staff. A CBRE report recently observed that the strength of the local labor supply has become an important consideration for developers when they evaluate an industrial project’s feasibility. Given these trends, what can developers and the logistics industry do to expand the pool of qualified workers needed to staff new warehouses?
The Learning and Career Center at Logistics Park Kansas City (LPKC) is an example of a collaborative workforce development initiative that could serve as a model for other logistics training and recruitment programs. A report released by the NAIOP Research Foundation in July, “Addressing the Workforce Skills Gap in Construction and CRE-related Trades,” examines LPKC’s Learning and Career Center alongside four other workforce development partnerships that seek to recruit and train the next generation of construction and logistics workers.
Designed by Northpoint Development, LPKC is an industrial park located 35 miles southwest of downtown Kansas City that is anchored by a BNSF Railway truck and barge intermodal facility. Northpoint has used a favorable labor market in the area surrounding LPKC to promote the park to prospective tenants, as shown in LPKC marketing materials. But even with LPKC’s proximity to the Kansas City metropolitan area, Northpoint recognized that it would need to help the industrial park’s tenants recruit and retain qualified workers. To that end, Northpoint collaborated with Johnson County Community College and local governments to establish LPKC’s Learning and Career Center.
The center aims to augment the workforce commuting from the Kansas City metropolitan area by training workers living in the rural and semi-rural areas surrounding LPKC, including the city of Edgerton and Johnson County. The Learning and Career Center offers training programs that are tailored to the needs of employers at LPKC as well as courses that can lead to a logistics certificate, forklift certification, or prepare students to obtain a commercial truck driver’s license. The center also offers GED programs, basic skills classes and classes related to emerging technologies. Approximately 500-600 students enroll in the center’s programs each year.
Northpoint Development has facilitated several partnerships that support the Learning and Career Center. Northpoint and its partners at LPKC built the center and make it available to Johnson County Community College on a rent-free basis. The Kansas Workforce Partnership uses federal and state funding to provide the LCC with reception, maintenance and logistics staff, and it offers tuition assistance for students enrolled at the center. Northpoint Development offers a scholarship for Edgerton residents, and employers at LPKC have also helped defray the expenses of courses that would otherwise cost $99 so that students can take them for as little as $25.
The Learning and Career Center effectively leverages the complementary resources and expertise of the partners who support it. Johnson County Community College provides the center’s faculty, but it works closely with employers at LPKC to identify the most relevant topics to address in its programs. The Kansas Workforce Partnership provides the center with substantial funding, while local governments play an important role in working with guidance counselors to recruit high school graduates to learn and work at LPKC.
The Learning and Career Center has been an important element of LPKC’s success, helping to train many of the workers needed for the more than 4,000 new jobs that the park’s tenants have created since LPKC opened in 2013. The center also stands as an example of the clear advantages that industrial park developers and their tenants can derive from workforce development partnerships with local governments and educational institutions.
The LPKC case study is part of the report “Addressing the Workforce Skills Gap in Construction and CRE-related Trades,” authored by Barry Stern, Ph.D., and published by the NAIOP Research Foundation. The full report is available for complimentary download on the NAIOP Research Foundation website.
As NAIOP Research Director, Shawn Moura manages the NAIOP Research Foundation research committee and day-to-day operations of the Foundation’s research projects.