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STUDENT SUCCESS: Mitchell Powless

January 22nd, 2018

Mitchell Powless didn’t know or much care about what logistics and supply chain management was when he dropped out of high school a decade ago, let alone dream about a career in the field.

Today, thanks to the training he received at Norco College’s Logistics Management Program, Powless is a purchasing agent and logistics coordinator for Brenner-Fielder & Associates, a Riverside-based firm that works in the industrial automation, pneumatics and robotics industry. Married with one child and a second on the way, Powless is saving up to buy a home and is on track to become purchasing manager at the firm this spring – all at the age of 27.

“Community college Career Education programs are playing an important role in giving you the tools you need for a fast changing economy,” Powless said. “It’s a struggle sometimes to find people with the skills to fill the jobs that are available, and believe me, the jobs and the demand are out there.”

Indeed, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics sees steady growth in the profession over the next 10 years, and the average annual salary for a logistician in the Inland Empire is pushing $77,000 and rising. Other jobs in the field of logistics and supply chain management pay even more. “It’s an area that can cover a lot of ground,” Powless said. “Finance, management, legal aspects, you name it.”

Powless, a recent graduate of Cal State San Bernardino’s Supply Chain program, said he knew nothing about the burgeoning field until he enrolled at Norco College, a pioneer in developing logistics industry leaders at the community college level. The college has awarded nearly 250 certificates and associate degrees in logistics management over the past 16 years.

Powless stumbled into the field after ditching his plans for a career as an EMT.

“I’ve always been interested in trucks, trains, and planes since I was a kid, and logistics and supply chain management covers all of the above,” Powless said. “It is not just about delivering a box to a doorstep or pushing pallets in a warehouse. It’s also about managing the information and money flowing back up the chain, to deliver that product as efficiently as possible.

Thanks to its proximity to the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the Inland Empire is located in one of the world’s largest logistics and supply chain management hubs. And community colleges in the region are at the forefront of training tomorrow’s workers in the field. Among the programs locally:

  • At Barstow Community College, students can earn a certificate of achievement in supply chain management within 54 weeks, at a cost of just $1,104 in tuition and fees. Approximately half of these students can have their fees waived through the California Community Colleges Promise Grant program. With courses including acquisitions and purchasing, inventory control, storage and handling, transportation, and budgeting, graduates of the program are prepared for employment as storage and distribution managers, as well as logistics and supply chain managers, in the region.
  • Riverside City College offers a 12-month certificate program in International Business that prepares students to manage global firms and/or business operations. Courses include instruction in the principles and processes of international business policies, business environments, foreign currency issues, foreign operations and management, and foreign direct investment.
  • Chaffey College offers an associate degree through its Logistics and Materials Transportation program that focuses on managing and coordinating all of the logistical functions of a business, as well as internal allocation of resources, operations units, and delivery. The California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office recently recognized the program for boosting the earnings of students who participate by 97 percent.
  • At Norco College, students can earn an associate degree or a certificate of achievement in logistics management, in addition to an associate of science degree in business administration with a concentration in logistics management. Courses run the gamut from principals of logistics to international logistics, freight claims and warehouse management. Norco is the only community college in the country approved by the International Qualifications Network as a Registered Training Center.

Powless enrolled at a community college because he needed the training and education to get a good job. Norco College was close to his home, and Powless was intrigued by the logistics management program it offered.

“The curriculum provided me with a nice overview of the concepts and the direct applications you need to thrive in the industry,” he said. “It provided me with an invaluable education.”

It also led directly to his first job at Brenner-Fielder. While still at Norco College, Powless was working on his resume when he gave a copy to Rex Beck, a professor in the logistics program who has worked in the industry for more than two decades. The resume ended up in the hands of Brenner-Fielder. A few weeks later, Powless was working in the company’s shipping and receiving department. That was in the fall of 2012. Just seven months later, he was promoted to the purchasing department, where he has managed the flow of product into the company for almost four years.

With a retirement coming up in just a few months, Powless will soon be promoted to a managerial position and will be looking to fill his own position with a similarly skilled replacement.

“Mitchell embodies the success of Norco College's logistics management program,” Beck said. “The logistics industry is growing and has a long-term need for knowledgeable leaders. I cannot express how happy I am to see graduates like Mitchell succeed. To have helped Mitchell and his young family is rewarding, and to know what he and other graduates contribute to the competitiveness of our local economy is humbling.”

About IEDRC:

The Inland Empire/Desert Regional Consortium (IEDRC) consists of 12 community colleges. It serves as a regional framework to communicate, coordinate, collaborate, promote and plan career and technical education and workforce and economic development in the Inland Empire/Desert Region.


Ashley Etchison
Director, Strategic Communications & Marketing
Strong Workforce Program
2001 Third Street, Norco, CA 92860
(951) 372-7086