The dearth of skilled supply chain workers at every level—from sourcing to manufacturing to shipping to warehousing to distribution—has been widely addressed in both mainstream and trade media, as well as on this site. So it came as no surprise when the fifth consecutive MHI Annual Industry Report, “Overcoming Barriers to NextGen Supply Chain Innovation,” devoted four pages to the topic.
Identified by 64% of respondents as a top challenge to their operational success, hiring qualified workers will continue to be a problem until the industry places more emphasis on developing relationships with educational institutions, says Dr. David DeLong. A nationally recognized expert on designing and implementing solutions for critical skill shortages, he 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 Program (CTE) and released at the 2017 MHI Annual Conference.
The paper draws key insights from initiatives launched collaboratively 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 corporate/academic partnership process.
DeLong recently participated in an interview for the second quarter 2018 issue of MHI Solutions, where he detailed why myths—or more accurately, assumptions—are slowing progress in developing partnerships between companies in the supply chain industry and academia at the primary, middle and high school levels, as well as at technical and community colleges.
“Most of the assumptions outlined in the white paper are made unconsciously. But they are extremely common,” he says. “Company leadership, for example, just assumes they can easily collaborate with a school because they share a common objective in solving critical skills shortages. Yet the reality is that executives’ and educators’ goals are completely unaligned and often conflicting.”
That’s because, DeLong continues, many teachers don’t necessarily see their objective as being to prepare job-ready graduates. “There’s also a big difference in job readiness preparation between high school versus community college or technical school. Unless you’re talking about a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) high school, the curriculum is probably geared more toward preparing students for college, or even simply to be good citizens,” he adds.
Another common assumption made by both industry and educators is that a relationship will thrive without sponsorship. “By sponsorship I mean having a champion on each side who is really committed to making these programs work,” notes DeLong. “These things take time, and turnover happens. Without a designated point person in each organization—and a succession planning process for who is going to take over when the current leader retires or gets promoted or relocates elsewhere in the country—programs simply fall apart.”
Further, a commitment on the part of companies to sponsor school programs in terms of financial underwriting is a must, he adds.
“Employers will erroneously assume that the money will take care of itself once they develop a partnership with a school. Yet schools are endlessly driven by concerns over budget,” explains DeLong. “Employers need to recognize and prepare to invest in these programs, both financially and with their employees’ time.”
The entire interview with DeLong can be found here.