From the truck seat to the C-suite, every supply chain is facing the exact same challenge: There just aren’t enough people to do all the work that needs to be done.
Mandy Rennehan, known as the “blue-collar CEO,” says there’s a simple reason for that: “We suck at marketing.”
Known for her popular HGTV show “Trading Up” and her advocacy of blue-collar labor, Rennehan worked her way up from a high school-educated contractor to CEO of the multimillion-dollar facilities management company Freshco. Speaking at the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals’ (CSCMP) annual Edge conference in September, Rennehan said that “some of the best humans” she’s ever met work in supply chain management, but the field in general does a terrible job of communicating what supply chain is and its value to society.
“How are you going to attract talent if they don’t even know what you do?” Rennehan bluntly asked attendees.
She has a point. If you comb through DC Velocity’s considerable archive of interviews with logistics thought leaders, you’d be hard pressed to find even one who dreamed of being a logistics professional in high school. And these are supposedly our best and brightest: the innovators who have transformed supply chain management operations at major companies, smaller cutting-edge firms, and government agencies. We are lucky that these people who spent their youth dreaming of being astronauts and doctors, soldiers and entrepreneurs somehow found their way into supply chain instead.
Yes, it can seem a little ridiculous to think of a 14-year-old dreaming of working in the supply chain. But why not? What supply chain professionals do is cool and remarkable. You feed the world and vaccinate it. You put everything from iPhones to electric guitars to baby formula in peoples’ hands. We all know that without supply chain people, the economy just … stops … moving.
I get it: Supply chain and logistics managers are not typically self-promoters. (Frankly, as a journalist covering the space, that’s one of the things I like the most about folks who work in the field.) You would rather solve problems than talk about how great you are for doing so.
The Talent Center will reach out to places and people that have traditionally been under-represented in the supply chain workforce and offer training-to-jobs programs. It will also reach into high schools by providing supply chain curriculum. That curriculum will focus both on preparing students for supply chain programs at two- and four-year colleges, and on providing technical training for students who want to enter the supply chain workforce as soon as they graduate.
Let’s go back to those thought leaders for a moment. How did so many of them—who knew nothing about logistics or supply chain in high school—end up in this field where they’ve had such an impact? Often, it was because someone reached out to them and suggested they take a look at supply chain—try a class, seek out an internship, apply for a job.
Maybe it’s time we did the same?CSCMP has set an ambitious goal of raising $5 million for the Talent Center in five years. If you or your organization wants to get involved, reach out to CSCMP Director of Engagement, Education, and Sustainability Cynthia Mebruer at firstname.lastname@example.org.