Much has been written lately about the low unemployment rates, the Great Resignation, and the constant struggle to find talent for critical logistics and supply chain positions. But this is not an unfamiliar challenge for our industry. I recently came across a 2010 white paper written by Ken Cottrill at MIT’s Center for Transportation & Logistics that noted that “[the] supply chain faces a severe shortage of talent at a time when the demands on the profession have never been greater.” Twelve years later, this statement still resonates. While many community colleges and universities now offer supply chain programs, and companies have developed in-house training programs for their employees, I wonder if more can be done as we enter the post-pandemic era. Could this be the turning point to effect real change and attract workers to the profession in the long term?
I’m certainly aware that the struggle to attract and retain people isn’t unique to our industry. Yet I can’t think of another time in history when public awareness of the supply chain has been greater than it’s been these last two years. We’ve captured their attention because of the pandemic. Even my 13-year-old understands the significance of the supply chain—not just to his own life, but also to the world at large. In fact, a recent dinner conversation with my son got me thinking about the potential to reach high school-age students.
A few years back, our local high school introduced a yearlong “Incubator” course for students interested in entrepreneurship. Students team up, develop a product or service (either real or conceptual), and create a business and marketing plan. Teachers invite business professionals to come in and speak about real-world operations. In fact, my husband is an intellectual property lawyer who volunteers with several local high school Incubator programs to help teach the kids how to protect their ideas, art, and inventions.
I wonder if similar programs could be developed in high schools to introduce students to the various supply chain disciplines or at least give them a basic understanding of supply chains? Cottrill noted in his paper that “at the base of the supply chain skills pipeline are the young recruits who will become future leaders.” While he was talking about young adults, I think it could apply to those students who are nearing the end of their high school education as well. What if we started planting the seeds a bit earlier than college, developed internships for high school students, or created more targeted outreach programs? With the minimum age requirement for obtaining a commercial driver’s license about to fall to 18 from 21, more young people will soon be eligible to start a career in trucking. What if high school students learned more about trucking as a career and could hear from drivers about what the job really entails?
I’m sure many of the companies you work for have come up with creative ways to attract talent, beyond offering the traditional financial incentives. If you have mentorship programs, internship opportunities, or other outreach programs you’d like to share, please feel free to send an email to our email@example.com inbox. Supply chains are about much more than just delivering products to consumers; they are about the amazing people who give their time and talents to make the world run smoothly. Let’s work together to showcase all that a career in supply chain has to offer.