Of course, undergraduate supply chain programs must balance the need for cross-functional perspective with the requirement to prepare students to start their career within one of the functional silos. "When the students get their first jobs, they're not running supply chains," says the W. P. Carey School's Verdini. "They're in purchasing or demand planning or logistics or other operations."
Schools like W. P. Carey and Smeal have adopted the Supply Chain Council's Supply Chain Operations Reference (SCOR) model as the foundation for their curricula so that students see the larger picture of the value chain even as they gain the skills necessary to kick off their careers. That's especially important today, adds Professor Phillip Carter, Harold E. Fearon Eminent Scholar Chair of Purchasing Management at the W. P. Carey School and executive director of CAPS Research. "People need to understand the basics of the business and of whichever function they're going into," Carter says, "so that they can start making a contribution very quickly."
Analytical Mindset, Global View
Technology naturally plays a critical role in managing supply chains today, and Joseph Carter, Avnet Professor of Supply Chain Management at the W. P. Carey School, notes that the ASU program offers a grounding in business-specific tools. The school also teaches students how to leverage the data that these systems can produce. "We provide very good training in how to interface with enterprise systems to get data transformed into information so they can make better decisions," Carter says.
In addition, providing an international perspective is an integral part of a sound supply chain curriculum today, says Joseph Carter. "One of our prime directives is not just to provide students with technical knowledge but to help them understand that regardless of which company they go to, they're going to be operating in a global marketplace," Carter says. He points out that the SCM program at ASU has a high international participation, particularly at the MBA level, adding culturally diverse perspectives to the student experience.
Tyworth, with Smeal, suggests that students coming into SCM programs today may actually be well prepared to operate in a global environment, where the ability to work in "virtual teams" will be an advantage. "The students coming into the program are used to working in a much more connected way," he emphasizes, pointing to the variety of social networking tools that students are integrating into their daily lives in a way that wasn't possible even a couple years ago. The challenge for business, Tyworth adds, will be to figure out how to leverage their inherently more connected recruits in way that provides the greatest benefit for the business.