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Address Supply Chain Talent Gap with a Stem Educational Outreach Program

By 2025, sixty million baby boomers will leave the workforce – but only forty million millennials will enter it in their place. Increased budgets for training and new technology fail to remedy the impending talent deficit. In the supply chain field, we must combat the talent gap through investing in the development of supply chain professionals and focusing on the early and continued education of students about their career options.

To address the need for early education, APICS has launched a new, updated Supply Chain STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) Educational Outreach Program. This program introduces K-12 students to supply chain, demonstrates the importance of supply chain management, and showcases career paths within the industry. 

Students retain information more effectively with interactive learning. Hands-on activities also sharpen critical thinking. In fact, a recent study from Carnegie Mellon University found that students learned six times more when given interactive lessons instead of watching a presentation. The Supply Chain STEM Program offers students ample opportunities to participate in hands-on activities related to supply chain management. The program also tailors learning activities to specific grade levels and engages students at an early age to show how supply chain affects their lives.

Take Supply Chain STEM’s Lemonade Activity, for example, which helps illustrate how lemonade comes to market. With the program, students from kindergarten through fifth grade learn about STEM concepts and four key areas of supply chain: source, make, deliver, and reuse/recycle. Using their five senses and the testing of hypothesis through experimentation, students get a firsthand look at supply chain in action. 

The program also offers the LEGO Booth Activity, geared towards middle and high school students. This activity introduces more advanced engineering and supply chain topics — like prototype design and creation, and test engineering­ — as students develop their own unique LEGO cars and assess the car’s performance. Other activities in the APICS Supply Chain STEM portfolio include:

  • The Paper Airplane Activity (Middle school)
  • The Cell Phone Game (High school)
  • The Lemonade Career Day Activity (K-2)

Cheryl Dalsin, founder of the APICS STEM program, believes the interactive learning inspires students to pursue careers in supply chain.

“These activities help students realize that supply chain is a part of our everyday lives,” Dalsin said. “They learn that their lemonade didn’t just magically appear. It started with a farmer, with ground water, with sugar beets and sugar cane. A lot goes into the process from planting the tree to reaching the grocery store. Each student plays a unique link in the supply chain to see how it works from start to finish.”

 

Many students are unaware of supply chain concepts and why these jobs are critical for keeping society running smoothly. When Dalsin saw the lack of awareness from the younger generation, she began introducing STEM concepts to her daughter’s elementary school class. Her daughter asked her to make the lessons “more fun” to encourage additional participation. Children want to learn when they are engaged in the subject matter. Through this program, they learn about the overarching concept of supply chain, how it utilizes STEM, and how it makes regular appearances in their lives.

The APICS Supply Chain STEM program aims to sustain the interest of all students, especially young women. According to a Microsoft study from earlier this year, girls are most interested in STEM subjects around age 11 but start to lose interest by age 15. Nearly 40% of the girls surveyed said they don’t get enough practical experience with STEM subjects, which contributes to their waning interest. It’s imperative to reach out to girls because, in addition to increasing the size of the talent pool, women offer diverse perspectives on decision-making and can improve the financial performance of a company. The activities provided by the Supply Chain STEM program help young women better understand the exciting career paths in supply chain and encourage them to continue their STEM education.

By high school, students start to consider their college majors and potential career paths. Dalsin said many students are unaware that a career in supply chain is an option when applying to schools, and most who major in supply chain didn’t discover the field until they were already at a university. By engaging in these hands-on activities throughout the K-12 years, students are not only continuously exposed to supply chain concepts, but also new and exciting career options.

“The games really provide a sense of accomplishment,” said Tiffany Lam, a Supply Chain STEM volunteer who works as a Buyer at the Intel Corporation. “Students see that they can be successful in supply chain. By the end of the program, they’ve already drawn parallels between the games and the business world.”  

Supply chain and logistics jobs are in high demand. They are among the most lucrative for entry-level positions and provide excellent career advancement opportunities. Most other sectors don’t give graduating students the same opportunities for compensation and growth. Having a foundation of supply chain knowledge opens new avenues and puts students in a great position to find a program and career path that can offer lifelong success.  

The APICS STEM Educational Outreach Program would not exist without the help of educators and volunteers across the country. Activities are hosted in a variety of settings, like schools, clubs, social organizations, and community programs. Anyone with an interest in supply chain and in educating the next generation of supply chain 

3 comments on “Address Supply Chain Talent Gap with a Stem Educational Outreach Program

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