A friend tells you she works in supply chain management. Someone else says he’s employed in logistics. Sounds interesting, but what do they do?

If you have ordered a book or electronic device from Amazon.com and go online regularly to check its status, then you know what logistics and supply chain management is about.

From buying the in-demand products and keeping the right amount in stock, to picking items off the warehouse shelves and packaging them, to transporting them to your doorstep, roughly 6 million Americans earn their living working in supply chain management, or, more broadly, logistics.

Those jobs are in demand in South Florida State College’s service area and the college has a program in place to meet the need.

“The logistic industry is important to Florida, which is home to many distribution centers,” said Tina Gottus, who heads up SFSC’s series of Xcel-IT programs. “With the growth in global trade, the expansion of the Panama Canal, and the increasing capacity of Florida’s ports, we’ll surely see rising employment in the logistics sector.”

“Supply chain management is not just telling a forklift driver in a warehouse what to do,” Gottus said. “The field includes purchasing, transportation management, packaging, warehousing—the entire scope of logistics.”

Gottus said the number of jobs in logistics is poised to grow 22 percent during the next decade. That growth is happening in Florida’s Heartland. Amazon recently opened a distribution center in Polk County that employs nearly 500 people.

Closer to home, CitraPac, the maker of frozen fruit snacks, will open a plant at the Sebring Airport and Commerce Park this summer. The company plans to hire nearly 250 employees, with some of those positions requiring skilled logistics managers.

“SFSC has forged a partnership with CitraPac,” Gottus said. “They’re already hired some of our program participants.”

Gottus said students can complete SFSC’s logistics program within a year. She noted students can start the six-course program in any academic term. The college is accepting applications now for Fall Term 2016.

CitraPac is one of many companies that are tenants of Sebring’s airport. The two-runway airport bills itself as a multimodal transportation facility and commerce park. “For example, five of our major tenants receive most of their raw materials by a rail link at the airport,” said Mike Willingham, executive director of the Sebring Airport Authority. “The finished products are then shipped out by truck-that’s multimodal.”

Willingham said he talks to logistics companies frequently about locating at the airport, which is 8 miles from downtown Sebring. “One statistic I always tell companies is the airport is within 150 miles of 85 percent of Florida’s population,” he said. “Even though most distribution centers are sited near major population centers, we’re still strategically located and ripe for expansion.”

Jobs in logistics are not confined to distribution centers and manufacturing plants. One of the first graduates of SFSC’s logistics program, Becky Tyson, is now a purchasing manager for the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office. Purchasing managers ensure enough materials and supplies are on hand to keep operations running smoothly.

“The program is really great—it will open your eyes to the many avenues under the logistics umbrella,” said Tyson. “You may think logistics only has to do with transportation or shipping, but there’s so much more to it.”

Tyson said the coursework helped her improve her management of inventory. “I learned the significance of holding costs and how that effects our budget. I implemented changes in my department based on the information I learned,” she said.

The six-course program Tyson completed includes: introduction to supply chain management, warehouse management, transportation and distribution, purchasing and inventory management, principles of quality management, and operations management.

“Our graduates this year are taking the Certified Logistics Technician examination,” Gottus explained. “This credential demonstrates they have the skills to function in a mid-level logistics position, not at merely at an entry level.”

For students interested in a program leading to a degree, SFSC offers an Associate in Science degree in supply chain management.

SFSC’s logistics program is growing, with more than 15 students now enrolled. Those students can look forward to an expanding logistics industry.

At the urging of Gov. Rick Scott, the Legislature appropriated about $850 million over the last five years for upgrades to Florida’s ports to handle growth in the transportation of raw materials and finished goods.

With the upcoming completion of a major expansion of the Panama Canal, Gottus said Florida is ready to take advantage of growing trade from overseas.

Trade and logistics already support about 1.5 million jobs in Florida.

“With its logistics program, SFSC is cultivating the future to help leaders like the airport’s Willingham attract logistics-related business to our area,” Gottus said. “Local leaders can now say ‘look what our college is doing— SFSC is producing the talent to fill these future new jobs.’”

For more information about SFSC’s 24-month Associate in Science degree in supply chain management or its one-year logistics and transportation specialist college credit certificate, call 863-784-7439 or email xcel-it@southflorida.edu.