CSCMP, universities work with companies to prepare graduates for growing field.
As the field of supply chain management becomes ever more important as a competitive differentiator among the world’s leading companies, so does the necessity to attract the brightest, most capable talent in the field.
The problem is the supply of talent is not sufficiently keeping up with demand, according to recent studies conducted by the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals in partnership with Auburn University and Central Michigan University. Many companies are also grappling with how best to recruit suitable individuals, especially from university programs, to manage their increasingly complex supply chains.
“When I came up in this industry, I fell into it like most of my peers,” said Rick Blasgen, president and chief executive officer of CSCMP, in a recent interview. “We’re now trying to make this a destination career.
“Companies, now more than ever, need to hire the best supply chain managers and staff. This creates demand and thus the field becomes ever more disciplined,” he added.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2012 reported that employment of individuals specializing in supply chain will grow by 26 percent between 2010 and 2020, faster than most other occupations. “Employment growth will be driven by the important role of logistics in an increasingly global economy,” the federal agency said.
However, the caliber of person sought to fill these supply chain positions is more difficult to find than many companies expect once they commence the hiring search.
“Compared to other professions, like accounting and finance, it is no longer enough for supply chain professionals to be functional experts,” CSCMP and the two universities stated in SCM Talent Development: The Acquire Process
, part of a series of three inter-related reports. “The managerial decisions that must be made in these interdependent environments are often dynamic, complex, and time sensitive.”
Many universities throughout the country have formed undergraduate and graduate degree programs with a supply chain management discipline. It’s estimated that there are about 40 university programs that focus on logistics/supply chain management, according to Gartner’s Top U.S. Supply Chain Undergraduate University Programs, 2014
. However, there are many more university degree programs that cover supply chain from more of a manufacturing and operations management perspective.
One of the oldest degree programs in the country is offered by the University of Tennessee. The school’s program dates back to the early 1940s when the focus was on freight transportation. In the late 1980s, the program included logistics and three years ago evolved into an integrated supply chain management program.
“Employers have influenced most programs to expand focus from a traditional transportation and even logistics perspective to a broader supply chain one,” said Ted Stank, professor of logistics and supply chain management at the University of Tennessee. “University education is not and, in my opinion, should not be vocational—training on how to do one job. Rather, it should focus on providing bright, educated people schooled in basic concepts and with skills in critical thinking, problem-solving, and leadership who can then hit the workforce and with the help of programs provided by their companies adapt their knowledge quickly to the specific requirements of a job and begin to be productive employees in a short period of time. I have seen this happen often with my students.”
Stank, who is in line to serve as the 2015 chair of CSCMP, explained as the supply chain management field becomes more complex, so does the amount of detail universities must push through their four-year degree programs.
“Think that 30 years ago we only had to teach our students transportation, and we could go very deeply into that area,” he said. “Then we added order-fulfillment, warehousing, inventory, etc. Now we have added manufacturing ops, procurement, etc. We have limited time, so we have to stretch this coverage pretty thin to get breadth at the expense of depth.”
“University supply chain programs are growing rapidly, but the capacity cannot yet turn out enough graduates to meet demand,” said Heather Sheehan, vice president of indirect sourcing and logistics at Danaher Corp., and the 2014 chair of the CSCMP board. “I will say many universities are doing a great job expanding their supply chain programs and producing very bright, well-rounded graduates.”
A key differentiator and benefit to companies seeking future supply chain managers is their structured offerings of internships to undergraduates.
Most supply chain management undergraduates at the University of Tennessee (UT), for example, perform at least one internship with either a manufacturer, retailer or third-party logistics services provider while pursuing their education.
“The most successful companies invest in students earlier, much like engineering recruiting, doing their hiring basically through internships and co-ops,” Stank said. “Many firms who recruit at UT do not hire new grads sight unseen; rather they recruit juniors for internships and co-ops, and then hire the best of these students for their full-time needs.”
According to CSCMP’s research, American businesses can do much more to cultivate a steadier stream of qualified supply chain managers earlier by providing internships. “They get an employee with all the benefits from a university-prepared student who has already been trained in their specific needs and job requirements and can really hit the ground running. It takes more insight and investment, but the ROI (return on investment) is huge,” Stank said.
University of Tennessee graduates about 350 students a year with degrees in supply chain management. That’s up from about 250 in 2007. Upwards of 90 percent of these graduates have jobs waiting for them upon graduation. Stank said the starting salary for many of these graduates is in the mid-$50,000 range, often with a $2,500 to $5,000 start-up bonus to cover moving and other related relocation expenses.
As the incoming CSCMP chair, Stank plans to make supply chain talent development a priority for the organization. “I believe that we have underutilized the three-way partnership between educational programs, industry, and professional organizations like CSCMP,” he said.
In recent years, CSCMP has invested heavily in programs, such as SCPro, designed to complement university education to help both companies and employees gain more detailed supply chain knowledge that they may not otherwise get from a degree program.
“The educational development that has accompanied the development of the SCPro certification is really incredible, and I will continue to push to find ways to use these new CSCMP programs to work with companies to create templates to help their employees gain the specific knowledge they need to increase their productivity and overall performance,” Stank said.
CSCMP has initiated a pilot program in which it will work with a company’s supply chain group to “map” their learning competency needs with available CSCMP products and services to provide a “tailored blueprint for learning for each designated job position,” he said.
“I have seen the direct benefits of SCPro certification, local roundtable events around the world, our annual conference, and a wide range of standard and custom solutions to develop talent thoughout the entire lifecycle of supply chain career progression,” Sheehan said.
“I encourage CSCMP members to take full advantage of the offerings, and if you have a need, ask CSCMP if they can help,” she added. “You will be amazed at the network of resources and members that will help solve any supply chain problem.”
College students pursuing the field of supply chain management are also encouraged to attend the CSCMP’s annual conference, which will be held in San Antonio, Texas, Sept. 21-24. This year’s event is expected to attract more than 3,000 attendees from around the world, according to Blasgen.
CSCMP’s conferences are packed with numerous concurrent sessions, which can make them feel a bit overwhelming to first-time attendees and difficult for returning executives to figure out how to best plan which sessions to attend.
Realizing this, Blasgen said CSCMP this year has organized its tracks and education sessions into six “cornerstones” of supply chain management. They include talent and career; economic forecasts, benchmarks, and surveys; thought leadership and innovation; manufacturing, planning and sourcing; transportation, distribution and warehousing; and the customer.
“These six cornerstones are designed to quickly direct you to the conference tracks and sessions that are most pertinent to your area of responsibility, and they are uniquely tailored to your and your team’s professional development,” Blasgen wrote in a recent issue of CSCMP’s Supply Chain Quarterly
newsletter. “To encourage more participation and interaction among attendees, each cornerstone track will feature at least one session without a PowerPoint presentation.”
In addition, he noted the streamlined conference program will allow attendees more time for networking between sessions. “Learning not just from speakers but also from one another is an important part of your overall educational experience,” Blasgen said.
For more details about CSCMP’s upcoming annual conference, access the organization’s website at www.cscmp.org
This article was published in the September 2014 issue of American Shipper.