August 2016 | Commentary | Smart Moves: Supply Chain Careers & Education Advice

How to Attract the Best Supply Chain Talent

Tags: Education & Careers, Logistics, Supply Chain

Lamar Johnson is Executive Director, Center for Customer Insight & Marketing Solutions and Senior Associate Director, Supply Chain Management Center of Excellence The University of Texas at Austin, McCombs School of Business, 512-468-1090

Everyone in the supply chain management field feels the crunch for frontline, technical, and management talent. Today, leading companies are expanding their talent search from traditional technical sources, such as engineering programs, to include a new area: business schools.

The demand for technically oriented people who understand business and possess soft skills such as communication, leadership, and persuasiveness, has created new disciplines within business schools. Schools are transforming the curriculum of existing programs to equip students with a combination of sought-after talents.

Schools like the McCombs School of Business have seen a dramatic growth in enrollment in supply chain as a choice of major, and we still can't keep up with the demand—growing from seven undergraduate students in 2007 to more than 250 in 2015.

The Winning Formula

Providing a well-rounded business education in addition to focused curricula on key supply chain skills, while also providing ample real-world experiences, is a winning formula for producing tomorrow's supply chain leaders.

To get your fair share of this talent source, look at how you are approaching your overall strategy. If business schools are not currently in the mix, here are four things to consider:

  1. Pick one, or a few, core schools to create a relationship with beyond simply posting interview schedules. Research company Gartner does a biannual ranking of schools that offer the most well-rounded curricula for producing the best talent.
  2. Once you decide on your core school or schools, assign resources to create a deep relationship. Schools are looking for partners to provide internships, student projects, classroom speakers, potential research opportunities for the faculty, and other creative experiential student opportunities.

    For example, the McCombs School and a leading retailer worked together to develop a program that immerses 30 undergraduates in the entire supply chain for three categories—from retail point of purchase all the way back to the source of raw material in China.

    Students visit each handoff in the supply chain during the six-week program, and work on an inventory optimization solution. McCombs School business students join students from the Hong Kong University in China for a few weeks of joint classroom training, which offers an enhanced cultural experience.

    As a university partner, look for ways to create customized programs with your company that provide differentiated experiences.

  3. Get your executives involved in the program's Advisory Council at your core school. Leading-edge programs use advice from their sponsoring companies to continually adjust and improve their overall curriculum and program offerings.
  4. Assist the school in its efforts to attract more supply chain majors from within the school. For example, provide resources to help develop and deliver "Supply Chain 101" presentations to promote supply chain careers to students trying to decide between supply chain and other disciplines.

The industry will continue to feel a talent crunch for years to come. Supply chain programs from leading universities are transforming their curricula and experiences to grow technically skilled business leaders, capable of leading up and down disciplines as well as across the enterprise. Don't miss out on the opportunity to play a role in growing and developing these programs and attracting your fair share of the talent.






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