January 2021 | Commentary | The Lean Supply Chain

Professional Education: Time to Pay It Forward

Tags: Education, Careers

The pandemic, for better and for worse, has shined a bright light on the supply chain and logistics functions.

Paul A. Myerson, Instructor, Management and Decision Sciences, Monmouth University and author of books on Lean and the Supply Chain for McGraw-Hill, Pearson, and Productivity Press, 732-441-3879

Early on, we saw the bullwhip effect impact personal protective equipment and even toilet paper as a result of hoarding and misallocation. Now that a vaccine is in production and early distribution, we keep hearing about logistical challenges rising from its complicated cold chain requirements.

All of this has shown the importance of visibility and collaboration in the supply chain, as well as how important it is to our economy today and in the future.

As a result, demand for supply chain talent is at an all-time high, as companies now realize how important supply chain management (SCM) is to their success. While more people are earning SCM degrees and certifications each year, it hasn't been enough to fill current needs. That means businesses worldwide may find it difficult to meet demand for their products and services.

Even in the United States, which has many educational institutions and industry associations offering degrees and certifications, companies are still having trouble filling senior-level SCM positions. It's also hard to fill lower-level jobs, such as truck drivers, and find qualified warehouse workers. All of these challenges drive up labor costs.

why a talent shortage?

The potential causes of this looming supply chain talent shortage vary and include:

Demographics. As baby boomers retire, many companies find they don't have a big enough pool of experienced managers to replace them. There especially seems to be a lack of middle managers with the proper skills.

Globalization. Doing business around the world has led to continuous outsourcing and a move to manufacture in multiple countries. As a result, the supply chain labor needs to increase faster than workers are becoming qualified.

Changing and expanding skill sets. As there is a significant use of data analytics, artificial intelligence, and robotics in the supply chain field, there is now a requirement for more technical and analytical skills. The skill sets required are also expanding.

For example, if you are in procurement, you also have to help manage corporate social responsibility and understand political issues such as trade, taxation, and customs.

Cost-cutting measures. To cut costs, companies have reduced headcount and cut back their training and development programs.

Lack of training programs. While there may be plenty of (fairly expensive) options in developed countries—while still not managing to keep up with demand—many emerging nations don't have nearly enough access to these types of resources.

I see all of this as a call to action to help educate and increase the human supply chain pipeline. Therefore, I plan to do my part to help expand the education of our professional workforce by offering a live, online Supply Chain and Logistics Management Certificate Program (supplychainsmarts.com) starting September 2021.

The way I see it, it's time for the baby boomers to pay it forward.






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