There are plenty of ways for business majors and industry newcomers to continue their education, whether online or in the classroom. But what’s a seasoned or moderately experienced supply chain professional to do?
Colleges are developing specialized programs for just that purpose as firms look to streamline their supply chains to keep costs down while minimizing risk. One school that has been catering to that need for many years is the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University.
The school offers full-time, evening, executive and online MBA programs, most of them with an emphasis available in supply chain management. But, in addition to that, the school’s Center for Executive and Professional Development also runs custom corporate programs in formats ranging from a full MBA with emphasis in supply chain management down to non-credit programs and other custom programs that could be as short as three days.
“Corporate clients often want to provide an MBA education, but they approach it in a strategic way,” says Dawn Feldman, executive director of the center. “They enroll employees as a cohort—shared experiences, shared language. A company that wants it will typically enroll 30 to 35 people—what they call their next-generation leaders—but we’ve had up to 60.”
The custom programs can be delivered on ASU’s Tempe campus or at company locations worldwide. They also can be done online and are taught by members of the W. P. Carey faculty.
“Think about a company with locations around the world and a purchasing team at each,” says Hector Zelaya, director of the center. “The custom corporate MBA gives those teams a common language and a common framework. From the company’s perspective, it’s more than a development tool. It’s also a retention tool and an attraction tool. They’re strategic about who they put in these programs.”
Done online, the program can accommodate students in Asia, Europe or anywhere else with an Internet connection. “It’s asynchronous online,” Feldman says. “In addition to the modules, courses utilize Web-based tools, so the focus is on engagement, but they can do it on their own time.”
The custom program curriculum has the same components as the schools’ full-time MBA program. However, in the custom program discussions and exercises can focus on that specific company and its challenges, Feldman says. “We’ve had online for more than 10 years. A company can take people who are geographically dispersed and go through the course without the expense of travel. In addition, some may choose to have an orientation session in Tempe or have a faculty member go to their site.
“A company has a specific problem,” she adds, “so we set up a focused initiative using the W. P. Carey School. They may be looking at strategic development, tactics or operations. When they choose to invest in custom, the faculty is giving their people the tools to approach their problems. We’re not trainers, but we transfer knowledge and the tools they need so they can solve problems themselves.”
Unlike the more structured full-time MBA or program for a certificate in supply chain management, the custom courses are very flexible. “They really fit the company’s specific needs. [The program] can be designed and delivered for [their] cultures. They really help define their learning objectives, in conjunction with our experts. ‘What’s your desired end goal?’ It’s a dialogue and a partnership.”
Zelaya adds, “It can cover the entire breadth of supply chain. A company might say they want to take a deep dive into procurement only or logistics only.
Supply chain professionals also can take advantage of three research center programs at the W. P. Carey School, which was ranked fifth among all graduate school supply chain programs, and tied for second in undergraduate programs in the latest Gartner survey. The school includes CAPS Research, the Center for Supply Networks (CSN) and the Health Sector Supply Chain Research Consortium.