Technology historically has been a struggle in this profession, but for the first time I see light at the end of the tunnel. We have new technology that transforms howwe visualize the market, manage data, and share information to break down industry silos. “ ” —Joel Sutherland, Professor of Practice in Supply Chain Management, University of San Diego School of Business
“oh, linguistics —right, that’s the study of language.” In the 1980s, logistics evolved into supply chain management, which was even more complex and difficult to understand. But we’ve seen a dramatic increase in the usage of the term, and there has been a shift from push to pull: Instead of shouting to private industry about our students, they now come to us. It has even been said that the demand for supply chain talent is now roughly six times greater than the supply. IL: How are companies supporting logistics and supply chain education initiatives today, and what are their return-on- investment expectations? Grawe: At Iowa State, we have a supply chain forum where companies formally become part of our program. One of the main reasons they engage with us in that capacity is to gain access to talent. Through the forum, we can offer live cases to students. For example, we take a retail store in the United States and work backward through distribution centers, visiting ports, going overseas, and letting students see it all firsthand. Companies benefit because they gain an opportunity to see how the students engage with their supply chain operations, and informally evaluate them. It also does wonders for their brand awareness. Where these companies may have struggled in the past to hire high-quality supply chain talent, they now have students lining up at their doors after hearing about the great opportunities on offer.
Sutherland: Many more universities want to bring industry players on campus, as it’s important to connect academia— students and faculties—with the industry. The question of return on investment is an interesting one. There’s not a clear ROI, but if you consider just the challenges companies have in finding the best talent, these partnerships with universities provide them with early access to students. That is the real differentiator and ROI for a company. Dr. Li: The University of Missouri-St. Louis (UMSL) has an active and close working relationship with our department advisory board, which consists of 17 executives from major local companies and not-for-profit organizations. They support a number of student engagement activities such as our student mentorship and speaker program. We’ve also been successful with company-sponsored research projects. The value that companies get through such collaboration is often intangible and hard to measure. But their investments—in time, money, or effort— deliver a lot in return. IL: How can a solid commitment to supply chain education help companies retain and recruit talent? Sutherland: Beyond our dedicated supply chain management careers fair, we conduct an industry survey every three years that asks a simple question: What are the skills that are required in supply chain talent? The interesting thing is that there is almost always a
IL: In what ways has interest in supply chain and logistics careers increased since the pandemic? Dr. Haitao Li, Professor and Chair of the Supply Chain & Analytics Department, University of Missouri-St. Louis: 2020 was an unprecedented year, but the good news for the supply chain sector was that people got to see a vivid picture and living story of the importance of supply chain and logistics. Enrollment for masters programs at the University of Missouri-St. Louis has increased significantly, while the breadth of industry interest has spanned beyond the traditional manufacturing sector to the likes of healthcare and agriculture. Professor Scott Grawe, Chair of the Department of Supply Chain Management, Iowa State University: One silver lining of this pandemic is that we don’t have to explain what the supply chain is to prospective students. We used to call supply chain management a discovery major, where students don’t know anything about it until they get into college. But now people develop an understanding much earlier on and proactively look for supply chain courses. That has been encouraging. Professor Joel Sutherland, Managing Director and Professor of Practice, Supply Chain Management Institute, University of San Diego School of Business: As someone who earned an undergraduate degree in logistics management, it was difficult to explain what that meant. People used to say,
June 2021 • Inbound Logistics 61
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