Starting a Logistics Love Affair

What is it about our profession that attracts smart, dedicated, hardworking young people who love logistics? I spent some time recently reviewing applications for the annual Inbound Logistics/APICs scholarship, granted to an undergraduate pursuing a supply chain career. Applicants submit an essay describing why they want to enter the field, and what they hope to contribute.

Anyone sweating over millennials’ ability to fill the logistics talent gap can rest a little easier. Any one of the applicants could have won the scholarship. These students are intelligent, thoughtful, literate, and enthusiastic about our field.

Ultimately, I chose Devan Dunneback as the winner. Devan, who will graduate from Michigan State in December, began his own love affair with supply chain when he was 11 years old and toured a General Motors plant with his dad. His goal is to land a job that "makes a real difference in our world."

Shortly after reading these essays, I attended an industry conference where I noticed many more young faces—and many more women—than I’ve seen in the past. Just like in the essays, the young professionals I met are energetic and enthusiastic about establishing supply chain careers. I heard repeatedly how it was important to them that they make a difference in their jobs, and how working in supply chain provides that reward every day.

Many students I met also recounted how they were redirected from less promising career paths to logistics. One undergraduate had been studying pre-law, but worried about her job prospects. She did some research, then switched her major to supply chain. A second young student pursuing a degree in social services was bored by the coursework. After meeting with a professor who relayed the great opportunities in logistics and supply chain, she went straight to the registrar’s office, and changed her major to supply chain.

This past summer, a supply chain student did an internship at the Inbound Logistics offices. She was bright, motivated, and demonstrated great teamwork and collaboration skills. Her future employer will be lucky to have her.

I starting thinking: What can experienced professionals do to attract more smart, motivated people to logistics? My first suggestion is to encourage your company to begin a supply chain intern program or expand the one you currently have.

Second, do a data dump. One subscriber I spoke with recently was winding up a storied career at a Fortune 50 company. But before he retires, he plans to work with interns and young supply chain graduates to transfer his great experience and technical knowledge.

There are many more ways to kindle a logistics love affair for the next generation, and you don’t have to wait until your hair turns gray to do it. It’s rewarding to mentor young supply chain professionals on their way up, especially those who are receptive, appreciative of your help, and motivated to make a difference.