Getting the Kids Hooked on Supply Chain Management

Jennifer Baljko  EbnOnline

How do you explain business situations and supply chain management practices in a way that gets kids excited? You make a game of it. Business on the Move has done just that.

The hope is that the recently launched board game, sponsored by 50 logistics-related companies and institutions, spurs business interest among younger generations and fosters a deeper understanding of how products move from Point A to Point B. While aimed, for now at least, at the UK market, Business on the Move puts real-world logistics, supply chain management, and business decision-making power into the hands of children and young adults aged 9 to 19.

According to the website, it “challenges players to run a business that must respond to customers’ orders, moving different products from China to their UK market by combinations of air, sea, rail, and road as quickly, as profitably, and as responsibly as they can.” The game gets kids thinking about questions supply chain professionals always have top of mind: What is the best way to deliver products? What will it cost? Will we turn a profit? How can we grow our business? How can we achieve a low carbon footprint?

It’s not surprising that we’re seeing more initiatives like this popping up. In fact, it’s more necessary than we think, and generally speaking we probably could use more of this kind of early-grade instruction. As EBN has reported (see The Talent Pinch and Saving Supply Chain Mid-Management Talent), there is an increasing worldwide, cross-industry shortage of supply chain management and logistics talent across all organizational levels, from entry-level staff positions to senior managers.

Over the last decade or so industry leaders and the academic community have addressed this with college courses and university degrees specializing in supply chain management. To some extent, that has been a successful in bringing greater awareness, more focused attention, and intelligent, capable people to a business area critical to the global economy.

However, a huge gap remains. A study from the Georgia Center of Innovation for Logistics, “The Logistics of Education and Education of Logistics,” found that the United States alone will have approximately 270,200 logistics-related job openings that will need to be filled every year through 2018 to keep up with projected industry growth. In the Middle East, a 2011 study from B2G Consulting, “State of Supply Chain Education in the Middle East,” found that, while the region is quickly becoming a world-class logistics hub, “corporate training and educational programs in the Middle East were not sufficiently addressing knowledge gaps. These gaps grow larger each year as more and more experienced workers reach retirement age,” according to this article in ITP Business Portal’s In the big emerging market known collectively as Africa, the skills gap is a pressing concern as the region builds out its mining, oil and gas, telecommunications, and IT industries, notes this story in The Skills Portal.

That’s what is happening just in a few places. Multiply that by many other regions and it’s clear we have to have to get many, many more people into this profession to meet the most basic operational needs and likely economic growth scenarios.

Creating supply chain and logistics interest and understanding at younger ages may be a key to doing that. By showing a younger generation why supply chain and logistics matter and showing that there are promising and lucrative career options available, more kids and teens may be willing to add to the list of things they’d like to do when then grow up. The Georgia Center of Innovation for Logistics, for instance, has already started to do that. It’s working with technical and career high schools to introduce logistics classes into the curriculum.

For the younger set, two thirds of Business on the Move’s initial production run will be routed free-of-charge to some 500 UK schools that have been nominated by the organization’s sponsors, according to the site. Additionally, the group’s platinum and gold sponsors will host more than 25 training events during the 2014 autumn school term and will invite schools and organization to explore the linked learning activities.

What else can be done to fill the need and close the talent gap?