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Continuing Education a Must for Supply Chain Professionals

“What is the price of a barrel of oil today?” That’s a question I ask my classes during the first few minutes of our first session, be it an undergraduate class in operations management, a graduate class in supply chain management, or a professional development seminar full of supply chain professionals.

Sadly, only a few have any idea of the price of a commodity that impacts every element of the personal or professional supply chain. But it goes deeper than not knowing a price that is but two clicks away at anytime. It is the professional disconnect as to why this kind of knowledge is important in the first place.

My teaching method includes a blend of theory and practice. It also includes a healthy dose of ‘current events’ to glue it all together. You remember current events from junior high school social studies? Your teacher told you to bring in a recent newspaper or magazine article about the subject du jour in class and prepare a one-minute overview to be presented in front of the class. For some, just the thought of that process brings flashbacks and chills. The process may have been uncomfortable but the intent well intentioned. 

In my view, the supply chain management profession is not spending enough time on keeping current and staying educated. And that is hurting your performance and shortchanging your employer. 

Executive education

Corporate, or executive education and training is hot, and very competitive. This training can be skills based, like project management or processed based, like lean manufacturing.

According to Training magazine’s 2016 Training Industry Report, it is a $70 billion dollar business. This is a comprehensive figure and includes all types of workforce development.

For those supply chain professionals in the electronics OEM world, there is a variety of training opportunities, both formal and informal, which fit the bill of advancing employee development. Some companies offer internal training or sponsor the employee to attend programs outside of the organization. Others offer tuition reimbursement for college or graduate level courses. Still others, the majority, depend on their employee’s sense of professional pride to maintain a sense of relevancy in their field. 

Colleges & universities

Academic institutions these days offer more than degree programs. Colleges and universities, especially those with deep supply chain management curriculums, often have related institutes that include corporate partners. These partnerships corporate/university partnerships allow employee access to specialized academic programs, custom developed training, and internships and externships. The university brand is important for both the institution and corporation, often resulting in institutional fundraising, access to faculty for research and job opportunities for the alumni network. 

 Michigan State University’s Eli Broad School of Management hosts the Supply Management Council with such members as Intel, Motorola Solutions, Johnson Controls, and General Electric. Rutgers University’s Center for Supply Chain Management partners with Panasonic and Johnson & Johnson.  Amatek is a member of The Supply Chain Institute from the University of San Diego’s School of Business.

Professional trade associations

Organizations such as the Institute for Supply Management and APICS, and their affiliates, offer professional certifications, workshops, and seminars for members and non-members alike. There are also a growing amount of online programs available from many trade associations that lead to professional certification, or just an expanded a person’s knowledge base. Association sponsored meetings, networking sessions, and regional and national conferences allow for important networking opportunities in additions to educational sessions.

Private training organizations also offer online and classroom based training in public seminars or customized programs for companies for those not seeking certification. A quick web search will find a multiple of organizations. Additionally, many colleges and universities offer certificate programs in supply chain management, some for credit and some without. Once again, the strong brand of a popular college or university goes a long way on a resume. And the education is usually relevant and thorough.

The personal approach

For some companies, professional development is not a priority, or the victim of the budget process. But that does not provide a free pass to supply chain professionals who wish to remain current in the field. 

What is happening on the “front page” is directly related to the job you are doing every day. We all tend to get caught up with the fires and emergencies on our desk. But, look at the macro view of the world. In our global economy, chances are that a political assassination across the globe may have as much of an impact on your chemical prices as a snowstorm in Colorado has on your domestic shipments. 

And unfortunately, there are those in our profession who may not be aware of either.

Certainly the amount of information available to supply chain professionals can be overwhelming and it is unreasonable to expect to access it all. Determine the best sources of information that will keep you informed and stay on it. You owe it to yourself and to your companies. It is also the responsible thing to do.

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