Why We Should Be Going Into Middle Schools to Talk About Supply Chain

June 14, 2016




With baby boomers retiring in droves and more companies recognizing the importance of strategic Supply Chains, we in the Supply Chain industry need to be doing all we can to help advocate for this career with young people. We need to take ownership over this kind of outreach – going into schools to help explain the career advantages of a field that still doesn’t get a lot of press, compared to other options like sales and marketing.

It’s a message that we’ve been focused on for a few years at Argentus, ever since the industry started taking notice of the fact that demand for great Supply Chain talent is only going up. And up. And up.

So it was great to see a recent article in Industry Week echoing this sentiment. Paul Myerson, a U.S. Supply Chain professor, argued that the battle for Supply Chain talent truly begins not in university, or in high school, but even earlier in middle school.

Yes, really. It’s still very common for people to report that they “fell into” working in Supply Chain, either after a few jobs or based on their employers’ internal needs. It’s pretty rare for someone to dream from a young age of becoming involved in the process that gets products to market, that efficiently buys an organization’s supplies and effectively moves them where they need to go. We still treat the idea of someone wanting to be a Supply Chain professional from a young age as a kind of joke.

But why? Almost everyone who works in strategic roles in Supply Chain loves it. As recruiters in this space, we hear this from people every day. The field is engaging, with complex problem solving, the opportunity to be strategic, and the chance to travel and gain exposure to different cultures. More and more, Supply Chain is also on the forefront of corporate social responsibility and sustainability. It’s pays well. It’s very much a career of the future. So is it that crazy to try and get young people excited about the field?

We think not. We think that young people should find out what Supply Chain is all about even as early as middle school. Why should we assume that young people who have never heard of Supply Chain at all aren’t going to be interested in working in it – until they “fall into” it later on in their careers?

We shouldn’t. The Industry Week article points out some interesting initiatives from the Indiana Department of Education. They’ve created work groups to develop high school requirements and curricula that would best prepare students for future Supply Chain careers. They’ve offered professional development sessions for middle and high school teachers in math, science, business and economics to help show them how to introduce basic Supply Chain fundamentals to young people.

They’ve also begun holding “Supply Chain camps” for middle schoolers – summer enrichment programs that introduce kids to the basic fundamentals of manufacturing, packaging, distribution and retail. And professors like Paul Myerson are going into schools to show kids that Supply Chain is every bit a vital and valuable field as finance, marketing, or other aspects of business. Plus it might be easier to find a job.

So why don’t we do this more in Canada? Some Supply Chain leaders certainly do go into schools to speak about the field. Some of Argentus’ recruiters have spoke at colleges and universities about Supply Chain. But as an industry, we should be going into high schools and middle schools even more than we are right now. We’re happy to do it ourselves because, as recruiters, we want to see the pipeline of future talent as full as possible.  

Canada’s Supply Chain Management Association is excellent in terms of their efforts towards professional development and advocacy for the field, so we’d love to see them take even more of a leadership role when it comes to going into high schools and middle schools – and we’d love to put our money where our mouth is and participate!  logo_icon

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