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Bridging the Skills Gap

In the drive to address the skills gap in the supply chain sector, companies have a strong ally in academia.

By Sarah B. Hood

In the drive to address the skills gap in the supply chain sector, companies have a strong ally in academia. While community colleges and trade schools are adjusting their curriculums to produce work-ready graduates for entry-level jobs, the universities are training people for high-level positions and working with industry to reduce the hiring pressure through implementing new technology, increased efficiencies and other solutions.

“Organizations are encouraging academic institutions to prepare and implement skills that are forthcoming, such data analytics, machine learning and radio-frequency identification or RFID,” Jack Crumbly, Ph.D., associate professor at Tuskegee University’s College of Business and Information Science, said. “Organizations are asking the academic institutions not only to adapt but to use scenarios in which students can be prepared for these adjustments.”

Crumbly points out that automation is one way of adapting to “some of the ongoing struggles” of the past two decades. “It’s not a complete solution, but it’s one way to bridge the gap of employment shortages,” he said. “In addition, organizations are looking to improve processes; they’re using the new technologies or applications to improve or speed up the process.”

Numerous institutions are creating innovation centers based inside schools, often in partnership with industry, where students can have a chance to tackle real-world problems in the classroom, he noted. For instance, Auburn University in Alabama has an RFID lab dedicated to research into the business case and technical implementation of RFID and other emerging technologies, specifically as they apply to the retail, supply chain and manufacturing sectors.

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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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