For me, the month of September will forever be synonymous with the beginning of fall and the excitement and anticipation associated with the start of a new school year. So it seemed fitting that this column should address global supply chain management from the same perspective. It also happens to be especially timely, given the increasing attention supply chain management is receiving within corporate boardrooms and how academia is responding with new specialized degree programs targeting existing and future supply chain managers.
Two key phenomena reportedly are driving this renewed attention. The first is the growing number of companies doing business internationally that are increasingly turning to their supply chain operations to help reduce costs, drive efficiencies and produce competitive advantages, but are finding that their existing supply chain staff may lack the necessary specialized skill sets required to manage the multifaceted demands of a complex global supply chain.
And finding qualified personnel is proving difficult. According to Bloomberg BusinessWeek, a study by the Georgia Center of Innovation for Logistics estimates that “nearly 200,000 U.S. supply chain jobs will go unfilled each year through 2018 for lack of qualified talent.”
The second factor becoming an increasing issue within industry is the exodus of seasoned supply chain professionals from the work force as “baby boomers” begin to retire. As a result, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is projecting a 20 percent increase in supply chain jobs over the coming years.
Combined, both factors have the makings for a “perfect storm” of employer demand for those that possess the right training.
Today’s global supply chain manager has an increasingly important and challenging role. It requires being cognizant of the myriad risks and costs associated with the international movement of goods, such as duties and taxes, import/export regulations, inventory planning, storage, transportation and security, as well as of potential offsetting optimization strategies such as free trade agreements, foreign trade zones, tariff engineering, shipment consolidation, systems and process automation.
Today’s supply chain managers also need to be adept at an assortment of specialized business skills, such as performing landed-cost/risk analyses, creating key performance metrics, negotiating contracts, knowing cultural business etiquette, and managing third-party service providers.
Finally, they need polished C-Level communications skills to effectively articulate these issues and to convincingly “socialize” the importance of supply chain considerations throughout the organization.
In response, an increasing number of business schools have begun to offer new undergraduate and graduate programs that focus specifically on supply chain management skills, while schools with established programs have integrated supply chain management training into other curriculums, or have expanded initial program offerings.
For example, the University of North Texas, ranked as the world’s fifth-best program for supply chain and logistics productivity, requires its marketing majors to include supply chain courses. Bryant University’s College of Business started out five years ago with an undergraduate minor in supply chain management in response to companies stating that they “showed interest in students just for taking a couple of (supply chain) courses.” The school now offers it as a major and has reported fielding calls from recruiters that have included Pepsico and Target.
Other schools, including the University of Arkansas’s Sam Walton School of Business, offer supply chain management programs as a standalone major, as well as a value-add minor to complement other fields of study. For instance, a student majoring in apparel studies with the ambition of becoming an international buyer, who also has an understanding of the global supply chain process and how its related risk, cost and time considerations can impact design, pricing and time-to-market decisions, should be a higher-valued candidate to prospective employers.
And don’t forget earnings. A Wall Street Journal article noted the increased earning power that a supply chain management major or MBA can bring. “At Arizona State, for example, supply chain majors from the class of 2012 earned average starting salaries of $56,410, compared with $50,098 for undergraduate business students overall. At the MBA level, students who took operations or supply chain jobs reported starting salaries averaging $97,481, compared with $92,556 for all MBAs.”
Clearly, whether considering a new career in supply chain management or the desire to add new skills to an existing resume, the current offering of educational programs combined with related employment opportunities has never seemed brighter.
Jerry Peck is a licensed customs broker and Global Trade Management expert with more than 30 years experience in regulatory compliance and GTM optimization solutions. Contact him at 469-235-5229, or at email@example.com.