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How Syfan is partnering with UNG to train tomorrow's logistics pros
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Bailey Brumelow, a student at University of North Georgia, speaks during a management class on buyer and supplier relations in Dahlonega on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018. - photo by Austin Steele

Students learning about supply-chain management and logistics at the University of North Georgia Dahlonega campus are getting some insider training thanks to a new partnership with Syfan Logistics of Gainesville.

“They’ll give us feedback for what they’re looking for in our students,” said Cesar Ayala, an assistant professor in the Mike Cottrell College of Business. “So having that partnership with them helps us build our curriculum.”

For the students, it’s about developing a deeper understanding of the skill set desired and required for the current job market.

And for Syfan, it’s about helping prepare students for the many career paths in the industry, with a specific eye toward “third-party” logistics, which is what the company specializes in.

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César Ayala, right, assistant professor, teaches a management class at University of North Georgia in Dahlonega on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018. - photo by Austin Steele

That means transportation. And there’s big money in hauling goods from one business to the next, from one customer to another.

Syfan bills itself as a leader in the logistics of “hauling deadline-sensitive, perishable food products” for some of the country’s largest poultry, seafood, confectionary, cereal and soft drink companies.

The company also works with some of the world’s largest package-delivery logistics companies and American automotive manufacturers.

With a record of decades-long growth in the Northeast Georgia region, Chief Executive Officer and founder Jim Syfan said his company boils down to a homespun way of managing.

As it turns out, Syfan’s lineage led him to this point, he said.

His father worked as an executive with a railroad company, while an uncle worked for another railroad business. And his great-grandfather ran a steamship company.

“I don’t know whether it’s genetic or not,” Syfan said, laughing.   

Either way, the transportation logistics business is perfect for him, and it’s been lucrative.

But, first and foremost, Syfan said, he strives to be “community-minded.”

The health of his business, he added, hinges on the bigger impact he can have on Hall County and the surrounding area.  

Stu Millar, the company’s strategic project recruiting liaison, said that mission is revealed daily in the atmosphere and culture of the business.

“This is a family feel here,” he added.

From engineers to English majors, Syfan employs a growing number of individuals with varying professional and educational backgrounds.

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César Ayala, assistant professor, teaches a management class at University of North Georgia in Dahlonega on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018. - photo by Austin Steele

But the demand for qualified, interested and trained workers always remains.

“As we grow, we need quality folks,” Millar said.

And that means tapping local resources.

Syfan is also looking to expand its partnerships by rolling out certificates with Lanier Technical College, and also connecting, perhaps, with other schools like Clemson University and Auburn University.

“You’ve got young ambitious people,” Millar said, adding that through Syfan’s internships, students can receive real-world experience. “There’s no telling what you’re going to be doing on a given day.”

For the more than 80 students Ayala is teaching in this concentration of study, the partnership with a successful business in the industry is proving invaluable.

During a recent class, several of these students shared the motivations and aspirations for diving into this course of study.

From the fast-paced environment that presents challenging puzzles to solve, to customer service and the ability to transfer this education to the Army, or the potential for entrepreneurship in an expanding market, the reasons given were many.   

There’s also the fact that the Northeast Georgia region is growing in the field of supply-chain management and transportation logistics, which means job openings in the agriculture industry, for example, are readily available.

As one student explained, there’s even an opportunity to engage in “reverse logistics” by opening a sustainable recycling plant.

This focus of study is all about learning how to optimize processes and streamline production and service-delivery in business. And Syfan now provides software to help train students in these areas.

Ayala said the partnership is in its initial phase, but this concentration of study is underrepresented in higher education.

“We are training the next generation of professionals,” Ayala said. “So we need to be in sync with what the private sector is looking for. Our students are more prepared to get a job after they graduate.”

Syfan said he hopes to have a full textbook and expanded curriculum for students completed by this time next year to expand classroom training and the work-study “hands-on portion” the company can deliver to students.

“It’s a great system in our backyard,” he said of colleges and universities in the Northeast Georgia region. “What we want to do is make that training available” to as many as possible.

But Syfan knows that when it comes to being successful in business and life, “We’ve got to prove it first.” 

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César Ayala, assistant professor, teaches a management class at University of North Georgia in Dahlonega on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018. - photo by Austin Steele