The Failings of Supply Chain Education

During a CEO panel at the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals annual conference, Bill Flynn, Atlas Air, noted there is no globally accepted standard for what a supply chain management degree represents. The panel suggested this is not the case for professions like chemical engineering.

Flynn’s comments echoed discussions by educators who often find they must backfill for some of their students who may lack a prerequisite for a particular class. Even within departments, there are discussions about how different topics are taught in an effort to develop some consistency so that students who do have the proper prerequisite have the same knowledge or skill regardless of who taught the earlier class.

But, though basic skills are clearly an issue, Flynn was speaking on a more macro level. At U.S. universities, supply chain management may be taught in the business school, in operations or as part of procurement. Coming from different background disciplines, the view of supply chain management can vary widely, and this is reflected in the curriculum.

That issue multiplies as you look at it globally. Now you have the problem of departments and universities multiplied by country or regional influences. In one Asian university, what passed for a supply chain program came out of the marine management discipline. Training ship captains and vessel operators may involve a lot of actual supply chain management, but the core curriculum necessary to produce a strategic-level supply chain professional ranges into territory that is foreign to that program’s original goals.

Some businesses have resigned themselves to the task of taking graduates with core business skills and training them in the company’s own model of supply chain management. That approach has its own limits.

If we hope to attract more talented individuals to the profession, we will need to address this issue or risk losing hopeful graduates who find their careers constrained as they try to get ahead in one of the hottest careers of the 21st Century.

Recent Articles by Perry Trunick

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