The Demand for Supply Chain Talent is Growing, and the Supply is Shrinking


What’s keeping you up at night?” It’s the question we’ve all been trained to ask when we want to understand the big challenges that our colleagues are facing. And for supply chain executives these days, the answers almost always involve people. How do we find, train and retain the talent that we need to sustain and grow our companies?

The economy is picking up, unemployment is low and interest rates are favorable. But Baby Boomers are retiring in record numbers, and the labor force participation rate is at a record low. The demand for talent is growing, and the supply is shrinking…it’s a perfect storm for employers. And to make matters worse, many jobs are changing and becoming more complex through the constant introduction of new technologies.

The recession is over, and growth is in the air. The 2015 MHI Annual Industry Report revealed that most supply chain leaders now see access to talent as a larger barrier to innovation than access to capital. And the U.S. Roadmap for Material Handling & Logistics highlighted the changing workforce as one of the most important challenges to future supply chains.

In some ways, this is a good problem to have. But it is a problem, and many companies are starting to feel the economic impact through high recruiting costs and long recruiting lead times. If the trend continues, then it could lead to wage inflation. This difficult environment has been years in the making, and can’t be fixed overnight. But MHI has a number of initiatives underway to address both the short- and long-term talent needs of our industry. We’re investing in programs that are advancing the education of engineers, managers, technicians, and associates throughout the supply chain.

At ProMat 2015 we’ll host a Workforce Summit on March 25 and 26 that brings industry leaders and academics together to share best practices and collaborate on solutions. From manufacturers to retailers to logistics providers, the Summit provides a forum for understanding the broad effects that the talent crisis is having on the supply chain.

In partnership with the College Industry Council on Material Handling Education (CICMHE) and the Material Handling Education Foundation Inc. (MHEFI), we’ve crafted an educational program called Student Days at ProMat. Student Days will give 250 students and educators firsthand exposure to the latest supply chain technologies and the companies that provide them. And a select group of these students will be invited to tour cutting edge distribution facilities where they will see modern, automated supply chains in action.

There are also two important educational events that MHI is sponsoring this summer:

July 13-17, MHI and CICMHE will host the Material Handling Teachers Institute and Doctoral Symposium at University of Wisconsin Madison. The Institute is a boot camp for those who teach material handling at the university level, and also provides future professors with an opportunity to network and share their research with colleagues.

July 20-23, the MHI Career & Technical Educators Summit will be held in Patterson, CA. The Summit offers high school and technical school instructors direct access to thought leaders from our industry, and the latest techniques for teaching logistics.

In addition to these events, MHI has a number of longer term educational projects underway. Universities around the country are now running research projects based on the U.S. Roadmap for Material Handling & Logistics, and sharing their insights about the technological and economic impacts of emerging supply chain technologies. Communities in several states are looking at better ways to align stakeholders and develop strategies to respond to the challenges identified by the Roadmap. And supply chain leaders in many companies are introducing the Roadmap to their teams as a way of energizing their innovation strategies. Each of these projects helps to put our industry at the top of the agenda, and opens the door for a deeper discussion about the critical role of material handling, logistics, and supply chains in society.

By Daniel Stanton,MHI Vice President, Education and Professional Development

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