Education, Outreach Keys to Changing the Face of Supply Chain

The supply chain has an image problem. Although modern operations no longer resemble the dark, dirty, stagnant facilities of the past, we’re still challenged by that popular perception. In reality, supply chains are global enterprises led by a diverse group of professionals who routinely utilize innovation, creativity and smart thinking to drive operational efficiency as they keep the economy going.

Further, even though more than 11 million people work in the field—8.6% of the nation’s workforce—a shortage of skilled workers persists. As baby boomers retire at an amplified pace, our industry must figure out how to attract, train and retain an ample workforce. That’s because, in just two years, 1.4 million new jobs will be created throughout supply chains.

To fill those openings, our industry must find ways to attract demographics that, historically, haven’t comprised a significant part of our workforce, including women and people under the age of 35 (commonly called ‘millennials’).

But how?

At MHI, we believe the key to promoting career opportunities in the supply chain is education, both in traditional and not-so-traditional ways.

On the traditional path—education in the classroom—MHI’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) program has developed a comprehensive curriculum that includes a four-volume textbook set, Fundamentals of Warehousing and Distribution. Already in use at more than 60 institutions around the country (including high schools, community colleges, technical schools and department of corrections programs), the materials help their instructors prepare students for entry-level positions in supply chains—in warehouses, transportation, operations, scheduling and manufacturing support.

Additionally, we welcome those instructors and students to attend our ProMat and MODEX trade shows through a special "Student Days" program. During those two days, students visit exhibits on the show floor to check out the latest equipment and technologies provided by MHI members, then see them deployed as they tour a local warehouse facility.

MHI also has an equipment donation program that matches the equipment and technology needs of CTE programs with MHI members and MODEX and ProMat exhibitors willing to donate. This program assists high schools, technical schools, community colleges, universities and similar training organizations in obtaining material handling equipment and systems for their working labs and training facilities. Donated equipment supports hands-on training and education for students in warehousing, logistics, engineering and supply chain management.

Further, through our ongoing partnership with the College Industry Council on Material Handling Education (CICMHE), we’ve been working to support undergraduate and graduate instruction and research programs at a variety of colleges and universities across the nation. And academia is responding.

Throughout higher-education institutions, there’s been an explosion of growth in supply chain degree programs. According to research by Gartner, curricula have been greatly expanded to give students more of an end-to-end view of the supply chain, complemented by coverage of technology fundamentals and deep dives into analytics and modeling. Sharing the stories of those who have built careers in supply chain is also part of MHI’s education strategy (the not-so-traditional part) in order to generate more mainstream awareness of the supply chain—not only of its importance but also of its actual existence.

Amy Carovillano, Vice President of Logistics and Distribution at The Container Store, explains: "People don’t think about how products get to the shelf. When I talk to young women—and young men—about supply chain, logistics, transportation and warehousing, they don’t understand. It’s just not a visible career because by definition we’re the back end of every business."

To that end, MHI has launched an awareness campaign to not only promote manufacturing and supply chain as an innovative and rewarding career choice but also to change the perception of jobs in the industry. The goal of the #iWorkInTheSupplyChain campaign is to connect, engage and inspire next-generation workers to pursue supply chain careers.

We invite you to submit your own supply chain career stories to, and help correct the popular misconceptions about working in our field. We hope you’ll accept our invitation to turn our industry’s image into one of opportunity.