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To Combat Shortage Of Industrial Workers, Prologis Internship Program Aims To Attract High School Kids

A high school internship gave Sandra Maksim the experience and motivation to pursue a career in the industrial sector.

When Maksim was a junior at Banning High School in Southern California, she participated in a program that gives high school kids an opportunity to take classes in job preparation and later intern at a local company in the industrial sector the summer before their senior year.

“I was 16 years old. They taught me how to dress, how to interview, how to network, how to present myself," said Maksim, 24, who is now an assistant operations manager at the Long Beach Container Terminal.

"I was a little shocked," Maksim said about the early job training experience. "But it’s been amazing.”

Prologis Chief Legal Officer Edward S. Nekritz watches Prologis President of the West Region Kim Snyder during the launch of the company's Community Workforce Initiative in Carson, Calif.

As part of Prologis’ new Community Work Initiative, the industrial giant has partnered with EXP, a Carson-based nonprofit that connects high school students to jobs, to create awareness and teach a new generation of workers about jobs in the industrial sector. ITEP/EXP has been operating a job placement program helping students like Maksim for nearly 20 years.

The initiative, which will start with high school students in Carson and LA's South Bay area, works with local workforce programs to provide mentorship, skills training and internships for those interested in pursuing careers in logistics, distribution and transportation, Prologis officials said.

The industrial giant, which has assets globally, plans to roll out the new program worldwide in the coming years. It is an approach that could help across multiple markets as the industrial sector scrambles to find workers as it experiences a tremendous amount of demand.

The growing need for workers will be part of the discussion at Bisnow's The Future of SoCal Industrial event Nov. 28.

With the rapid growth of e-commerce, the U.S. industrial sector is forecast to create demand for 452,000 warehouse and distribution workers this year and next year, according to a CBRE report.

“The increasing demand for labor has forced employers to become more creative in attracting and maintaining a strong work force,” CBRE Executive Vice President William Wolf said in a news release.

Prologis launched its new program, EXP Internship Program: Powered by Prologis, in September at the Carson Community Center. Last year, Prologis teamed up with EXP and saw the benefits of such a program.

Prologis President West Region Kim Snyder, who will be speaking at the Bisnow event, said 125 students from five local high schools participated in the program last year. This year, Prologis plans to recruit 160 high school students for trade internships.

“We thought it was an excellent program,” Snyder said. “We wanted to double down, get more involved and take on the role as a big sponsor of the internship program.”

High school students from across LA's South Bay gathered to learn more about Prologis' high school internship program.

Prologis Chief Legal Officer Ed Nekritz said the goal of the program is to create awareness of the job possibilities in the industrial sector.

“We hear time and time again from our customers that their businesses are thriving and growing but they just don’t have the skilled workers in their distribution facilities to be able to keep up with the demand,” Nekritz said.

“Whatever we can do to help solve that problem and to help these kids is not only good for our customers and the community [but] also for the shareholders and our investors as well,” he said.

EXP partners with local high schools across the South Bay. The program begins recruiting kids every September. Students must be juniors in good academic standing who have applied for the program.

Throughout the year, students take a monthly after-school class on basic job preparation skills, Snyder said.

Snyder said students are coached on how to interview for a job and learn about the different facets of the industry, basic business logic, how to operate machinery, how to dress and behave in a work setting, and work on résumé writing and other coursework for how their skills could relate to certain kinds of jobs in the industrial sector.

Sometime in May or June, students interview for a paid summer internship with a local industrial company. Prologis is encouraging its tenants to participate by offering internships.

For example, some of the jobs that the students have been placed in are with the Port of Los Angeles safety division, Snyder said. 

“Some have worked on the dock with the terminal operators, with dispatchers, transportation companies, logistics analysis and business operations,” he said.

“High school kids need to be made aware of all these options in logistics. We want kids to know that there are alternatives to retail or working at a mall. Not to say anything against those but we’re giving them a broader view.”

Prologis President West Region Kim Snyder, Prologis Chief Legal Officer Ed Nekritz and EXP CEO Amy Grat during the launching of Prologis' Community Workforce Initiative in Carson, Calif.

For Maksim, the assistant manager at the Long Beach Container Terminal, getting introduced to industrial jobs in high school opened her eyes to new career opportunities. She thought she was going to be a police officer.

After graduating high school, Maksim went on to attend the California State University Maritime Academy, where she spent summers interning at the Port of Los Angeles before earning a degree in business and landing a job at the Long Beach Container Terminal.

In a room full of students at the Carson Community Center, Maksim walked around sharing her story and encouraging a new crop of students to participate in the program. 

“We live right next to the one of the busiest ports in the world and we see all these trucks go by, but a lot of people don’t realize what they do,” Maksim said. 

Maksim said she wants young people to know that there are other job opportunities out there aside from the commonly known doctor, lawyer or police officer. The high school internship program gave her a clear career path.

“This is so important because when you’re 15, 16 you don’t know anything about job interviews, business skills or networking,” she said. “Most regular people learn it after college and I learned it at the age of 16. That’s what led to me to get a career at the age of 21.” 

Hear more about building the industrial workforce at Bisnow's The Future of SoCal Industrial event Nov. 28 at Omni Los Angeles Hotel at California Plaza in downtown Los Angeles.