The Supply Chain Talent Shortage: A Millennial POV

The Supply Chain Talent Shortage: A Millennial POV

By Kelsey Bates

The number of available jobs in the supply chain industry is growing. Meanwhile, supply chain managers are retiring faster than they can be replaced – around 25-33% of supply chain professionals are at or near retirement age. The result? Companies are scrambling to implement new strategies to recruit the next generation of professionals they desperately need – and their focus is on millennials.

Spoiler alert: I’m a millennial who has recently joined the supply chain industry. After reading and hearing about the supply chain talent shortage for the past year, I became interested in finding out what companies are doing to attract young professionals like me.

While searching for answers, I saw similar talking points being repeated: explanations about why there is a shortage of qualified talent; what millennials want from employers; how to leverage millennials’ love of technology; how companies can better communicate their value propositions to attract them; increasing awareness of supply chain jobs and advancement opportunities; demonstrating how companies can help millennials fulfill their personal and professional needs.

I wondered how I could bring something new to this discussion. Finally, I realized I couldn’t. As a millennial who just discovered a career in supply chain, my personal experience confirms a lot of what’s being said. Here’s my point of view:

Millennials aren’t aware of jobs in the supply chain industry
Despite majoring in business management, I never considered a career in supply chain. I remember supply chain being referenced at school, but frankly, it never seemed interesting. No one spoke about it passionately or conveyed how important it truly was to both businesses and consumers. While I see now that I’ve enjoyed the results of the supply chain industry’s work every day of my life, I rarely thought about things like logistics networks, transportation, warehousing, distribution centers, or material handling systems. It wasn’t until I read an intriguing job posting at a supply chain consulting and engineering firm that I began to think about the scope and importance of this industry – and I became fascinated. I remember the drive home from my first interview, passing by trucks filled with products I use every day that I began to understand the importance of supply chains and the professionals that build and operate them. It blew my mind that something so vast and so vital was happening everywhere around me, and yet was so easy to overlook. I now see the importance of ‘visibility’ in attracting people like me to the profession – it’s time for supply chain to move from behind the scenes to in front of the spotlight.

Millennials want to make a positive difference in the world
Like many in my generation, I want to make a positive difference in the world. Consequently, I’ve avoided taking jobs that I consider unethical. I’ve also avoided the long hours and economic hardships often found in low-paying but rewarding non-profit work. Up until now I’ve settled on jobs in-between – performing duties that helped people in some way, but weren’t necessarily making a large, meaningful impact.

In supply chain, we not only help people by providing the items they need every day, we also have the ability to do it in a positive, responsible way. From the pursuit of sustainably sourced items, fuel efficient modes of delivery, and green initiatives that help reduce our carbon footprint, I believe the supply chain industry not only has the power, but the desire, to change the world for the better.

Millennials love using innovative technology
Like most of my peers, I grew up with computers and constantly innovating technology. I’ve helped my parents and grandparents use and adjust to new technology. Like other millennials, I’ve watched as science fiction fantasies have become realities at an ever-increasing pace. Because of this, I’m not only excited about technology, I’m good at using it and adapting to any new tech that comes along. The supply chain industry offers young professionals like me a great opportunity to work with and witness innovative technology every day, and it should be a major highlight in recruiting. Personally, the appeal of robotics and practical blockchain applications is huge, and I know I’m not alone in those interests.

Millennials want career development, mentorship, and continuing education
My career has been a bit of a winding road through a few different industries, and now that I’ve found one that I’m passionate about, it’s made even better through the numerous opportunities for continuing education, career development, networking, and mentorship that I’ve encountered. CSCMP and MHI have created young professional’s groups with regular networking events and seminars designed specifically to nurture the growth of young talent like myself. I also find it very encouraging that so many experienced professionals are willing to become mentors. Additionally, as supply chain has become a primary focus to companies over the last few years, mostly due to the Amazon effect, industry professionals are increasingly moving up to the C-suites. There’s more opportunity for career advancement than ever before, and millennials have a prime opportunity to enjoy the benefits.

I couldn’t imagine a better industry to be working in, or a better time to be working in it. As more companies realize the competitive advantage supply chains can provide, it’s going to be even more important to develop talented, creative professionals who can not only keep up with trends, but develop new ones. And some of these professionals, like me, may take a non-traditional path to get here.

So how can companies recruit more millennials? Like I wrote, I don’t think I can bring anything new to the discussion, but I hope my personal experiences and point of view will reinforce some of what’s already being done in recruiting, and that my insights might help when interviewing that millennial who is considering a job in supply chain.