November 2013 | Commentary | Checking In

Shining the Light on Pioneers and Prospects

Tags: Education & Careers, Industry Associations

Felecia Stratton is the editor of Inbound Logistics magazine.

During its annual conference in October, the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) commemorated its 50th anniversary. Important milestones like this breed nostalgia. Understandably, then, much of this year's conference in Denver focused on honoring pioneers who helped shape our industry.

While it was interesting to look back, many conversations I had with CSCMP attendees focused on the future, and the importance of recruiting and developing the next generation of supply chain professionals.

As more millennials log on, experienced baby boomers are signing off. The demands on, and expectations of, this youth movement are considerably different than one decade ago.

Students coming out of today's universities matriculated through supply chain programs that didn't even exist 10 years ago. But, while they're ready to enter the workforce armed with advanced knowledge about supply chain theory, do they have the practical experience employers are seeking?

One 3PL executive I spoke with wants to hire problem solvers—people who can think outside the box while standing on their feet as they probe and process new challenges. Fundamentally, he says, young professionals fresh out of college have their back wheels on the ground, but that front-end savvy has yet to land.

But the talent gap might not be what you think. A recent Time article cites two independent surveys that offer a clue:

  • More than 60 percent of employers say job applicants lack "communication and interpersonal skills"—a jump of about 10 percentage points in just two years, according to The Workforce Solutions Group at St. Louis Community College.
  • Staffing company Adecco reports: "44 percent of employer respondents cite soft skills such as communication, critical thinking, creativity, and collaboration, as the area with the biggest gap." Only half as many say a lack of technical skills is the problem.

What industry gray hairs may sacrifice in formal supply chain education and technology acumen, they more than make up for with interpersonal skills, experience, and ambition. Technology facilitates communication and collaboration, but it will never be a replacement for personal engagement. For many millenials, face time has never competed with screen time.

That's the narrative that frames CSCMP's 50th anniversary. Companies are challenged with celebrating one generation and cultivating another—shining the light on both pioneers and prospects.