When considering the types of jobs in both today’s supply chain and that of 15 years from now, Steve Hopper, Founder and Principal at Inviscid Consulting and author of Roadmap 2.0’s workforce section, sees a tale of three collars unfolding within the industry.
“Historically, most people think of white-collar and blue-collar workers,” he explains. “But with so much automation coming into the mix, there’s a growing need for a middle level: the gray-collar worker.”
Hopper defines these workers as follows:
- White-collar (executive, engineering, and management) workers—with university-level supply chain and logistics-related degrees—who plan, coordinate and supervise complex supply chain operations.
- Gray-collar (technical) workers who install, configure, program and maintain the equipment and automation that are becoming ubiquitous in supply chain operations.
- Blue-collar (operational) workers who oversee the equipment and automation and ensure the right products are efficiently made, effectively handled and stored, accurately shipped and delivered to customers in a timely manner.
The consensus among the Roadmap 2.0’s 200-plus roundtable contributors, Hopper continues, is the fastest-growing current and future demand will be for gray collar workers. “These are the workers with technology degrees, associate’s degrees and related training that enable them to manage and maintain the kinds of automation that are rapidly taking over repetitive, menial jobs.”
As a result of the industry’s move toward robotics and automation, Hopper anticipates a large void in the number of people who can support those technologies.
“That’s why it’s so important that the supply chain industry emphasize and expand upon connections with academia at all stages—from career and technical educators at the community college, technical school, primary and secondary school levels, to universities—in order to introduce more students to the growing career opportunities within the supply chain field,” he says.
Hopper encourages businesses within supply chain to reach out to local schools and invite students and their instructors for facility tours, sponsor student projects, and offer internships and co-op positions. Further, businesses should offer to come to the classrooms and share real-world operational challenges and opportunities and spark interest.
“There has to be an end to the disconnect between industry and academia. Instead, they should collaborate to get the attention of students and equip them for the supply chain workforce,” concludes Hopper.
Want to learn more about what the supply chain workforce will look like in 2030? Roadmap 2.0 explores this topic in depth, beginning on page 42. Download the report here.