The supply chain industry is in a constant state of evolution. Technology is becoming less of a trend and more of a survival skill within an increasingly borderless international community. The “need-to-know” basics are expanding to include every step of the supply chain. What do students need to know today? Well, everything. As such, the methodology and delivery of supply chain education is changing.
Corporate partnerships are getting a boost in higher education.
While there’s a rich history of corporations offering internships and projects for university students, corporate partners have begun sitting in the driver’s seat of supply chain curriculum, keeping it synched with their changing needs.
That relationship often includes taking part in a corporate advisory council. Made up of anywhere between 3-25 or more members from the supply chain industry, many universities seek guidance from such councils when developing curriculum and implementing program enhancements. Through these consistent interactions, decision makers in education can learn what is happening in their industry, receive feedback on what skill sets are the most important, and help design projects for students that are applicable to today’s industry requirements.
For example, Pennsylvania State University’s Smeal College of Business is taking corporate partnership to the next level. Seeking a program that boasted end-to-end supply chain integration and better alignment with the changing needs of the industry, Penn State joined forces with CorpU of Mechanicsburg, PA to roll out the Supply Chain Leadership Academy. An online boot camp, it’s designed to help supply chain leaders of tomorrow apply concepts within holistic management scenarios.
CorpU worked the Penn State to completely rework their platform and adapt their materials to CorpU’s instructional design, resulting in an intensive 18-week virtual experience. Widely accepted by companies, this new program has helped the school deliver strategic and collaborative education to the masses.
A classroom is just a state of mind.
Although the supply chain management sector has historically preferred face-time within a classroom, that mentality has evolved over the last few years. There has been a distinct movement into online programming – propelled in part by companies that seek more cost effective and flexible curriculum for their employees and by the stakeholder schools facing the challenge head on.
Online courses, aimed at unlimited participation and open access for anyone, are changing how, when, and where we can learn. Called Massive Open Online Courses or MOOCs, these interactive learning spaces have broken down barriers to entry creating a scalable and affordable way to deliver almost any kind of course to your doorstep.
Universities such as Rutgers, University of Illinois, University of Pennsylvania, and Northwestern have MOOC designed courses in supply chain management available online (for a small fee). University admission isn’t required – it’s education at the fingertips of anyone interested. To see a solid list of MOOC courses available click here or here.
Studying the softer side of supply chain education.
As an industry, educators are accustomed to developing curriculum founded on technical and functional aspects of the supply chain. However in reality, supply chain experts are expected to go beyond the technical, assuming responsibility for their teams and impacting HR decisions. The phrase “supply chain management” says it all – you have to know how to manage your team and coworkers, a skill that can’t be found in any supply chain 101-text book.
The need for supply chain professionals to focus on soft-skill development is more essential than ever. As they are asked to move into more executive roles, that shift requires a refocusing on leadership and relationship development curriculum. Supply chain education that is based in part on enhancing a student’s communication skills, observation tactics, and active listening capabilities, will help drive the success of the company.
Widening the supply chain perspective.
It’s not enough to know logistics or sourcing, a supply chain leader needs to grasp all the steps in the process, from raw materials to production to marketing and development. As the corporate expectation has expanded to include a myriad of skills and capabilities, universities have worked to develop more well-rounded curriculum. Programs that previously focused on one aspect of the industry are now adjusting their material to include a broader perspective -helping students walk away more marketable and able to find success within the industry.
For example, Elmhurst College organizes its program around supply chain processes, not functions, ensuring their students grasp sourcing, productions, marketing, finance, and accounting. The University of Michigan prepares their supply chain students for the real world by encouraging them to take electives such as marketing or negotiation within the MBA program. MBA students may also take supply chain electives. The crossover between both disciplines provides for a more well-rounded student and employee.
These education trends are just the tip of the iceberg, but a powerful shift in supply chain education nonetheless. The growing influence of third party providers, increase in accessibility to online learning, focus on soft skills vs. technical learning, and broadening of the supply chain curriculum, all play a role in preparing the next generation of logistical leaders to bring amazing, innovative advancements to the industry.