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What are you really getting from a supply chain degree?

May 31, 2006
Human resources can be a valuable ally in screening applicants, but evaluating academic qualifications of new hires requires some knowledge of logistics

Human resources can be a valuable ally in screening applicants, but evaluating academic qualifications of new hires requires some knowledge of logistics and supply chain requirements. Even established programs in logistics and supply chain management are undergoing changes to adapt to the shifting needs of the logistics community.

Employers have some clear expectations for engineering or accounting graduates which can be measured against established degree and licensing requirements. But when that resume crosses your desk touting a newly minted BA or MBA in logistics or supply chain management, what are you really getting?

There is increasing demand for graduates with stronger technical training, leading universities to seize an opportunity and begin developing curriculum and degree programs to address those needs. Ohio State University and the University of Akron are among institutions approaching the problem by capitalizing on a strong base in operations management. Universities typically associated with engineering, such as Georgia Institute of Technology, have also broadened their approach to include supply chain management. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Center for Transportation and Logistics has formed a partnership with Spain-based Instituto de Empresa Business School and Zaragoza Logistics Center to allow students to earn dual master's degrees: an International MBA and a Master of Engineering in Logistics.

At the same time that logistics education is becoming more tactical, educators are pushing to make supply chain management courses mandatory for all business graduates. The result could be more graduates entering the workforce claiming some skill in logistics or supply chain management right when employers are clambering to fill a skill gap that is developing as the Baby Boom generation begins to retire.

Henry "Chip" Scholz with Scholz and Associates observes that current studies show more than 25% of today's workforce will retire by 2010, creating a shortage of 10 million skilled workers. While universities work at turning out more logistics graduates, much of that gap may have to be filled with people already in the workforce. Continuing education and professional certification will help those workers prepare and demonstrate their capabilities.

Here's a quick look at some of the programs already in place:

  • The American Society of Transportation and Logistics (www.astl.org/cert.htm) — (ASTL) — has introduced an online, self-study course leading to the professional designation PLS which "recognizes individuals who have mastered the key concepts of their discipline through professional experience and pursuit of advanced knowledge." This is in addition to AST&L's CTL designation (Certified in Transportation and Logistics), which requires course work in general management principles and techniques, transportation economics management, logistics management, international transport and logistics plus two electives.
  • The Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals's (CSCMP) Online University (www.cscmp.org), developed in association with Accenture's Supply Chain Academy (www.accenture.com), offers 41 courses.
  • The Institute of Logistical Management's (www.logistics-edu.com) Certified Logistics Practitioner (CPL) is operated in conjunction with the University of Phoenix (www.phoenix.edu) distance learning, and requires transportation systems, transportation management, business logistics systems, business logistics principles courses plus two electives.
  • The Retail Industry Leaders Association's (www.retail-leaders.org) Retail Supply Chain Certification (RSCC), which was introduced in 2005, features a 50+ hour curriculum that covers supply chain fundamentals, statistics, forecasting and planning, inventory management, performance metrics and collaborative planning forecasting and replenishment.
  • SOLE - The International Society of Logistics' (www.sole.org) Certified Professional Logistician (CPL) was adopted in 1972. It covers systems management, principles and functions of management, system design and development, acquisition and production support, distribution and customer support, and other subjects.