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3-Step Checklist for Addressing the Supply Chain Skills Gap

An interview with Dr. David DeLong on how to attract, train and retain employees in this perpetually evolving workplace reality.

By Doug Reed

The critical skill shortages within the supply chain industry have long been proclaimed and documented by MHI and many others within our field. Implementation of automation and technologies is increasing exponentially at every level—from sourcing to manufacturing to shipping to warehousing to distribution—placing stronger demands on employers to find workers with greater technical acumen and broader business aptitudes than ever before.

While our industry is fortunate to be growing in exciting and previously unimaginable ways, talent management issues are increasingly central to the success and sustainability of businesses within the field. To help companies gain a better grasp on the types of measures they can take to attract, train and retain employees in this perpetually evolving workplace reality, I recently sat down for a chat with Dr. David DeLong, president of Smart Workforce Strategies.

A nationally recognized expert on designing and implementing solutions for critical skill shortages, DeLong recently authored “The Myths & Realities of Successful Workforce Solutions: Lessons from Supply Chain’s Leading Edge,” a white paper underwritten by MHI’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) program and released at the 2017 MHI Annual Conference last fall. He’s also a research fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) AgeLab and co-wrote “The Executive Guide to High Impact Talent Management” and “Lost Knowledge: Confronting the Threat of an Aging Workforce,” two widely referenced and highly praised workforce management books.

The paper—available as a free download at mhi.org/subwebs/conference2017/downloads/SupplyChainWorkforceWhitePaperWeb.pdf—draws key insights from four initiatives that have been launched by companies and educators to address supply chain talent shortages. Within its 26 pages, DeLong identifies 13 tangible steps for implementing effective relationships between companies and schools to attract, train and retain employees with the skills that employers in the supply chain critically need, while debunking the myths that surround the partnership process.

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The Q2 2018 issue of MHI Solutions focuses on the supply chain workforce, including finding, retaining and unleashing the talent that is out there. To tackle the growing challenge of securing the right talent to effectively implement new technologies, firms must collaborate with industry associations, universities and career and technical education programs to develop the next generation supply chain workforce. This workforce will look very different as supply chains increasingly require purple people—those with business acumen (blue) and technical (red) skills—to leverage digital technologies and take full advantage of the business opportunities they offer.

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