MIT Program Can Help Fill Supply Chain Talent Gap

supply chain talent gap

Businesses are having a harder time finding talented workers to fill supply chain management roles. A report issued last year said 1.4 million supply chain workers would be needed by 2018, meaning roughly 270,000 new supply chain jobs would open up each year.

This growing demand and lack of available talent is why the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has decided to expand its supply chain management program. The university said it would offer a “micro-master” certificate to students who complete a five-course program and pass an exam, which can then count for a full semester of credits in the supply chain management master’s degree program.

Programs like these are important to attract new and young professionals to a career in supply chain management, Kevin O’Marah, head of research at SCM World, recently told The Wall Street Journal. Increasing the talent pool for the supply chain industry is badly needed, research shows. According to a recent survey, 43% of supply chain executives said during 2014, they found it harder to fill the supply chain talent gap. That’s up from the 37% who said the same in 2013 and 22% in 2012, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The Institute for Supply Chain Management and ThomasNet.com launched their annual 30 Under 30 recognition program in late 2013 to call attention to young procurement and supply chain professionals who are making an impact in their industry. Such a program was necessary, ISM and ThomasNet have said, because many in the field are nearing retirement age and too few younger workers are entering the field. By calling attention to millennials who are not just good at their supply chain jobs but passionate about them, the 30 Under 30 program encourages others to enter the industry.

New Technologies Require New Talents

Businesses are increasingly adopting new technologies, forcing supply chains to adapt and improve. Consequently, supply chain management professionals will need to also adapt and learn how to use and apply these technologies.  

Deloitte predicts that by 2020, for example, 70% of companies will adopt predictive analytics and wearable technology in their supply chains. A PwC survey also showed 30% of companies see 3D design as another technology that will disrupt the supply chain in the future. Supply chain managers will need to learn new skills to work with such technologies, and today some fear the talent gap will become even more pronounced thanks to this new technology.

“You need people who understand business and computational statistics — [but] there are very few of those people around,” Mark Johnson, associate professor of operations management at Warwick Business School, told BusinessBecause.

A Short-Term Solution

A Harvard Business Review survey also showed 60% of organizations expect a talent shortage in the next three years. However, instead of looking for new hires to fill the talent gap within their organization, companies are looking to the external workforce, which includes contingent workers and independent contractors. About 70% of survey respondents said the external workforce would make it possible for their organization to shrink the talent gap.

An Expert’s View

But HBR asks, “Are companies so focused on the short-term filling of gaps that they miss opportunities to fully leverage these talent communities?” To tackle such a question, we reached out to our contingent workforce expert, Andrew Karpie, who has written extensively for Spend Matters on this subject.

Andrew: I don’t really think so. I think organizations are becoming much more sophisticated about how talent is engaged — for short or long intervals — whatever fits the need. Today, there may be a lot of “gap filling” going on, but I think that such practices are making organizations more agile and competent in engaging talent differently across a much broader range of work arrangements.

So when it comes to the question of adequate talent for future supply chain and procurement organizations, I think they need to be thinking about these new models for engaging talent (e.g., blended workforce), so not just with short-term staff augmentation, but as an ongoing, normal practice that supports an adaptive, changing organization functioning in a fast-moving business and technology environment. In other words, they need to eat their own dog food.

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