As global supply chains become more complex and yet more critical to the success of companies, the importance of and demand for supply chain managers is rising. And finding qualified candidates may be like finding a needle in a haystack.
According to the Wall Street Journal, corporations are scrambling to hire supply chain experts and many universities are introducing new programs to meet that demand. These include undergraduate majors and specialized MBA degrees. In addition, universities and other institutions are starting or considering online courses, including MOOCs, to train new talent or further develop mid-level managers.
The trend is raising the profiles, and the salaries, of supply chain managers. Fifteen years ago, the function was perceived simply as logistics. Managers needed technical proficiency in discrete areas like shipping and warehousing, according to an article in Logistics Management magazine.
"He reported to the chief operating officer or chief financial officer, had few prospects of advancing, and had no exposure to the executive committee," J. Paul Dittmann, executive director of the Global Supply Chain Institute at the University of Tennessee, said in the article. "The way companies need to think of the modern supply chain executive has changed dramatically."
Indeed, "Logistics managers are becoming recognized as diversified corporate leaders in Fortune 500 companies," Laura Birou, a faculty member in the Sustainable Supply Chain Management Program at Louisiana Tech University told the Wall Street Journal. "We believe that the bottom-line value of these logistics decision-makers will reshape the current structure of many manufacturers and retailers."
The rise in status is translating into more money. According to a survey published by Logistics Management, 60 percent of logistics and supply chain professionals reported a salary increase last year. The survey found that the average salary for the "supply chain management" job function was $126,000 a year and the median was $110,000. Starting salaries aren't too shabby, either. According to Arizona State University, students graduating with supply-chain majors last year had average starting salaries of $56,410. Those with supply-chain related MBAs reported starting salaries averaging $97,481, compared with $92,556 for all MBAs.
Here are just a few of the latest university programs:
- Bryant University's College of Business has added an undergraduate major and MBA specialization in supply-chain management.
- SAP AG has a "university alliance" program that offers training in logistics technology. The program has added more than 250 schools in the last 18 months.
- Rutgers Business School, which launched an MBA concentration in supply-chain management more than 10 years ago, has now added an undergraduate major. It has registered 450 students for the degree.
- Portland State University's School of Business Administration is launching an MS in global supply chain management this year.
- Texas Christian University's Neeley School of Business started an MS in supply chain management this year.
Institutions are adding more online training and certifications for mid-career professionals. John Fowler, chair of the Supply Chain Management Department at the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, told Logistics Management magazine that he expects a surge in demand for online learning and accreditation as mid-level professionals seeks ways to update their skills without committing the time and expense required for a full-blown graduate-level degree. In Logistics Management's survey, 42 percent of respondents reported pursuing professional certification to improve their understanding of logistics strategy, while 20 percent said they had graduate degrees in logistics or supply chain management.
The Supply Chain Management Institute at the University of San Diego already offers an online Master's degree in supply-chain management, and it's considering launching a MOOC (massive open online course, usually offered for free), according to Joel Sutherland, managing director of the Institute. "Given that there are fewer logistics managers that will want to endure a post-graduate gauntlet, we believe online education will become more relevant in order to provide quality education to the masses."
What's the best way for the industry to encourage more students to study so that they can work in the supply chain? How did you get started? Let us know in the comments.