by Jennifer Ulrich, Senior Project Manager
“Those in power have more education, but those with higher education are not all in power.”
In generations past, on-the-job training and experience were typically sufficient for employees to obtain most of their goals and most employers welcomed the training opportunity. As the professional standards of the corporate world have matured over the years, however, higher education has become a necessary piece of equipment when climbing the corporate ladder. However, as testified by the above quote — pulled from Source One’s recent whitepaper on the subject of education and experience – a higher education is not a one-way ticket to a successful C-level career.
In the Source One Whitepaper titled, “The Roles of Education & Experience in Procurement”, we found and reported on some interesting numbers concerning education in procurement. First, of the respondents that held executive positions – Vice President and above, including C-levels – 15% had no more than a high school education to their name. Secondly, of those employees with less than three years of experience, none had less than an Associate’s degree. Higher education is clearly more important today than it was 20 years ago.
As the importance of higher education grows within the procurement and supply chain industry, so do the colleges targeting it. Long the domain of “engineers who can’t add and accountants who can’t foot numbers”, at least according to Jack Welch, purchasing and supply chain now has a dedicated curriculum, with more than 20 schools nationwide offering some form of supply chain management (SCM) degree program. It is a degree in demand, too. Fox Business placed SCM in the top ten college degrees predicted to yield a high paying job. This is proving to be an alluring stat, as CollegeProwler.com, a statistics repository for all things degree-related, showed that more than 1,700 people completed a Bachelor’s or Master’s program in SCM. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics expects a growth rate of 26% over the next 10 years for Logisticians, one of the top careers for those with a supply chain degree.
So what does this mean, then, in terms of skills these graduates are leaving with? What benefits are an organization full of business, finance, and MIS degrees (or, as the whitepaper suggests, a good number of high school diplomas) going to see in hiring SCM graduates?
Lehigh University’s undergraduate program gives its students exposure to various aspects of the supply chain business including supply and inventory management, logistics, B2B marketing, and operations management. Students are educated on cost analysis, negotiation skills, product development, and e-business. All of these skills are critical in a supply chain career. Taking this to the next step in a master’s program, Penn State offers its students the opportunity to enhance their problem-solving skills and build leadership skills to not only succeed in a supply career but advance as well. Courses like Supply Chain Management, Transportation and Distribution, and Strategic Procurement are among those pursuing this degree would be taking.
In my personal experience in the recruitment of new consultants here at Source One, the skills we look for include financial based analytics; the ability to navigate and understand contracts and pricing agreements, and have a familiarity with negotiated terms and those elements that can be negotiated; aptitude for market research and tracking industry trends; a knowledge of infrastructure to know how to connect the pieces; a thorough understanding of procurement operations; and a broad perception of how core business models operate. Source One, as well as other organizations seeking supply chain educated and experienced employees, looks for people who are able to coordinate and collaborate with various other functional departments, as this is also a critical component of strategic sourcing. Other more specific degree programs such as finance or business would certainly still provide the necessary skills to advance in supply chain career however one with a supply chain degree might find themselves starting with a leg up on the competition.
Between the language in “help wanted” ads and the statistics on increased college enrollment, it is easy to conclude that education is now an essential key to getting on the right career path for anyone planning on entering the job market. The increasing number of schools offering a supply chain management program affirms our own observations that the strategic sourcing and supply chain fields are growing and that the field is now benefitting from specialized training that will support and complement on-the-job training. Although experience is still a highly valued asset to any employer, coupled with training and this heightened education, employee and organizational success is more likely to be achieved and strategic practices are more likely to be effective.