Ask most American high school seniors what they plan to study in college, and you will likely get answers such as accounting, engineering, education and pre-med, to name a few. Supply chain management? Probably not even on their radar.
The reason generally is lack of knowledge at that age. Some young people may have insights into the field through a family member or friend who works in the industry and has shared with them some details about the profession. A few may be fortunate enough to work a summer job involving some form of supply chain activity, like in a warehouse or retail inventory storeroom. However, to the vast majority of high school students, supply chain remains a strange concept.
Yet, as reported in this issue of American Shipper
, companies are clamoring for college graduates interested and, most importantly, capable of becoming future supply chain leaders. Logistics, according to recent federal government statistics, will be one of the fastest growing occupations through 2020.
So, why is there this disconnect between our nation’s youth and this promising field? It appears supply chain careers remain, unfortunately, a best kept secret. Those of us who are in the industry know that it’s more than just about shuttling freight around a warehouse or to and from truck trailers, but to the less informed that’s still the resounding image.
The field is exciting in that it requires critical thinking and problem-solving skills and is increasingly international in scope. Just imagine being responsible for the safe and efficient movement of millions of dollars of product from point A to point B for a Fortune 500 company. Yet, as most senior supply chain managers will admit, they “fell” into the profession.
Perhaps, the understated nature of the field is now about to change as the general media steps up its understanding and more routinely reports on how companies have successfully boosted their bottom lines through finely executed supply chains, not just via crafty accounting.
There are also more than 40 colleges and universities in the United States with supply chain management undergraduate and graduate degree programs. Many students who matriculate into these programs have likely done so after exposure to them within their first year in university, not before. However, as these institutions showcase this degree option among perspective students in high schools, knowledge of this burgeoning field will take off.
Similarly, shippers must do a better job reaching out to the country’s youth by inviting them to see what they do to keep global commerce flowing, offer scholarship opportunities and promote internships once they start pursuing a supply chain management degree.
This editorial was published in the September 2014 issue of American Shipper.