Supply Chain Management – Coming Soon to a Primary School Near You

As it states on the APICS website:  “By 2025, 60 million baby boomers will exit the workforce, leaving a gigantic gap in talent, with only 40 million millennials ready to take their place. Along with this loss of highly skilled individuals, trends of training budget cuts and accelerating technology development are creating a concerning outlook for the future of supply chain talent. APICS is committed to decreasing the global supply chain talent gap.”

APICS is a professional association for supply chain management, providing research, education and certification programmes to promote supply chain innovation and resilience. It is particularly known for developing supply chain talent to elevate end-to-end supply chain performance.

In the US it is aiming to solve the supply chain talent shortage through the Supply Chain STEM (Student-led Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths) Outreach Program. This is designed for K-12 students (equivalent to Key Stage 1 through 4 in the UK) to demonstrate the importance of supply chain management and why it is a good choice of career – probably not something the vast majority (if any at all) of students aspire to, or even know about.

What’s really interesting (and rather innovative) about the programme is the story that sits behind how it came about – and this has been recorded in an excellent interview with the director of Supply Chain STEM Educational Outreach Program at APICS, Cheryl Dalsin, over on our Spend Matters US site. But in a nutshell …

It began in 2011 when Dalsin, working for Intel at the time, was doing an Intel Day activity at her daughter’s school to drive interest in science. It was a kindergarten activity, based on lemonade making, which introduced basic elements of the supply chain from source, to make, to deliver and reuse/recycle. This activity not only stimulated great enthusiasm from the children, but it highlighted a lack of STEM and supply chain education among students, contributing to the supply chain gap.

From then on Dalsin has been working to combat the talent gap by instilling interest in supply chain careers in younger generations, with much success. She partnered with other supply chain professionals, a team from Intel, and universities to garner interest and develop and pilot more supply chain STEM activities. It began by reaching 600 students in the Phoenix area and then demand from schools and other institutions skyrocketed.

The programme is now sponsored by APICS to take it to the next level. It is led by enthusiastic volunteers, and the past five years have seen it grow internationally. The goal was to reach over 15,000 students, with the activities progressing in complexity depending on the student school year. It has now surpassed that and the aim is to reach 100,000 by 2020. Who knows – it may even make it onto the curriculum one day!

Here’s a particularly poignant extract from the interview to whet your appetite to go and read the whole story:

SM: Do you envision having a high school course dedicated to supply chain one day, such as a “Supply Chain Management 101” class? Is that viable?

CD: I love to dream big. So yes, I think that's very viable. The first step though is [making] “supply chain” a common, everyday word, [in that] people understand it like they understand “engineer” or “doctor.” Kids walk into a grocery store with their parents, and they understand that the bananas didn't magically appear there. There's a supply chain that got it there, and it didn't start off in my home state.

If you’d like to read the whole story – which is a very enjoyable and informative piece, populated with great pictures from children about their interpretation of the supply chain – do pop over to our US site for Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

We found it such an enlightening story that we will soon be exploring the feasibility of doing something similar in the UK – so do look out for an article from us here.

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