By Vicki White, Vice President Business Operations, OC Reilly, Inc.

(December 6, 2021)—The COVID-19 pandemic has aimed a brighter spotlight on the critical need for reliable supply chain operations than ever before. Images of freight containers floating in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Seattle and of bottlenecked ports in California dominate the news. Businesses nationwide are reporting higher costs and lost productivity because they can’t get the raw materials needed to conduct their operations.

If it’s true, as the song says, that you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone, then the nation and the world surely know today that supply chain drives the economy. According to the Harvard Business Review, the supply chain industry comprises more than 44 million jobs, in fact.

But as the supply chain industry becomes more prominent and more technologically advanced, a disturbing trend is emerging at the same time. The pool of skilled supply chain talent continues to diminish.

“Through studies by various organizations, it is shown that companies with high-performing supply chains achieve revenue growth well above the industry average,” says a June 2021 article on “And without talent, you can’t reach a high-performing supply chain.”

The article cites a recent industry report, which points to three main causes of the talent drain:

  1. Supply chain technology advances have placed the industry on a fast track to innovation, increased output, and higher demand;
  2. Companies say it is more difficult to find qualified applicants with the necessary tactical and operational experience to handle the requirements of today’s supply chain environment; and
  3. Young people have either no knowledge of what supply chain is all about, or worse, a negative perception of it being a dull job with no chance of advancement or challenge – when nothing could be further from the truth.

A number of recommendations are listed in the report to help stem the trend of fewer supply chain professionals joining the ranks, such as:

  • Increasing the level of cross-training among current supply chain employees, to equip more people to handle the increasingly challenging aspects of the profession.
  • Creating internship programs to increase the pool of future supply chain experts.
  • Engaging the help of various supply chain industry associations to reach more young people with accurate information about opportunities.
  • Developing an employee referral program as a way to secure high-quality candidates.
  • Partnering with universities to launch or enhance degree programs dealing with the technical and operational facets of supply chain management in the 21st

As the team at OC Reilly knows so well, supply chain management is a rewarding, ever-evolving field that offers opportunities for tremendous professional growth and rewarding relationships with customers. As more people enter the industry, the benefits to the economy can continue to expand.

© 2021 OC Reilly, Inc.