How Young Students Entering Supply Chain Workforce Bring More Than Just a Degree

Discover how collaborating with local colleges and universities helps promote the supply chain field, and why it’s so important for companies to tap students entering the workforce.

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Supply chain education has become more paramount than ever. From training to upskilling to increasing diversity and inclusion in the supply chain workplace, many of today’s companies are expanding and enhancing their workforce development efforts. But, to do so, companies need to work with local colleges and universities in order to network with young talent.

Marina Mayer, Editor-in-Chief of Food Logistics and Supply & Demand Chain Executive, sat down with select supply chain professors for SCN Summit: Workforce Development to provide insight as to what companies should be doing in terms of hiring, training, re-training and upskilling supply chain professionals.

Here, Mayer talks further with one of the panelists, Dr. Rodney Thomas, director of the Undergraduate Supply Chain Management Program at University of Arkansas, to discover how collaborating with local colleges and universities helps promote the supply chain field, and why it’s so important for companies to tap students entering the workforce.

Food Logistics and Supply & Demand Chain Executive: How should supply chain companies go about recruiting supply chain management aspirants who are at the graduate level (MBAs)?

Dr. Rodney Thomas: The basic building blocks of recruiting supply chain talent are largely similar across degree programs. Companies still need to develop relationships with universities that fit their needs and leverage the career services resources at those universities. Company culture, location, the nature of the work, career opportunities and compensation are important to any student, but MBAs will likely be even more savvy and aware of these elements when negotiating an employment offer. In my opinion, internships and/or co-ops are still the best recruiting tools. They are extended interviews that give both the student and employer insights into a potential employment relationship. When companies offer valuable internship programs (for either undergrads or MBAs), they set themselves up for success. Students come back from good internship experiences energized and share their experiences with classmates. This type of authentic word-of-mouth marketing promotes companies and generates interest from other students.


Food Logistics and Supply & Demand Chain Executive: It seems that the discussion [from SCN Summit: Professional Development] focused more on major universities. How do these topics translate to the local community colleges?

Thomas: Again, I think the basic recruiting formula remains the same regardless of university type or size. Develop relationships, leverage university resources, make compelling offers and develop robust internship/co-op programs. The two major differences you will likely see have to do with resources and employment expectations. Major universities typically have more financial resources to fund highly developed career centers dedicated to just a business school or even a department. That means dozens of trained professionals dedicated to nothing except helping a company find supply chain talent. Smaller schools typically have less resources available to support a highly developed career center. The second difference between universities of varying sizes and formats is student expectations regarding employment offers. Students in highly ranked supply chain programs at major universities will have much higher expectations (salary, location, titles, career path, etc.) than students at regional community colleges. Prior to investing in a recruiting relationship with a university, reach out to faculty or career services to learn more about placement rates and starting salaries of graduates. If the best a company can offer is “X,” then find schools with graduates that typically earn “X” in their initial jobs. Attempting to recruit from “2X” or “3X” schools with an “X” package is often frustrating for both employers and students.


Food Logistics and Supply & Demand Chain Executive: Why is it so important for companies to tap students entering the workforce?

Thomas: Companies have multiple roles that require different skill sets and experiences. Some of those positions are likely a good fit for recent graduates and companies should actively recruit at universities for those roles. Beyond being a good fit for certain roles, students are a great source of new talent. They bring a naïve enthusiasm to the workplace, a desire to learn, more recently developed technical skills and a degree program solely focused on supply chain management. Although they will need to learn company and industry specific knowledge, students typically have great training on business fundamentals, supply chain content, analytics, process improvement, systems thinking, leadership and relationship management. With that kind of background, recent grads can usually grow into a wide variety of roles and add value to most organizations.