PH universities should include supply chain management curriculum

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With the growing demand for supply chain professionals, are universities producing enough talent?  

Supply chain disruptions have been severe in the wake of the pandemic. Factory shutdowns. Ports congestion. Lockdowns. The rising freight rates. Cargo ships run aground in Suez Canal. Companies have struggled to adapt to these massive disasters because they were unprepared. The turmoil has pushed businesses to put much attention on their supply chain professionals to take the lead in securing their inventory, logistics capacity, and the entire supply chain.

The disruption tortures the global supply chains, prompting companies to look for individuals with comprehensive supply chain expertise who can navigate an organization through uncertainties and changing environment while reducing cost, increasing efficiency, and boosting revenue.

According to the 2021 PricewaterhouseCoopers survey, 84 percent of Chief Executive Officers are planning to increase long-term investment in talent development. Another report from a recruitment firm, Michael Page, revealed that the supply chain is ranked third among jobs with the highest hiring activity in the nation. The data conform with the US Labor Statistics that predicts supply chain employment will grow by 30 percent in the next decade. The tremendous growth in the supply chain sector is propelled by the emergence of e-commerce, technological advancements, global trade, and changing consumer behavior.

Although the careers in supply chain management are promising, it is facing a major problem—talent scarcity. In the Philippines, only a few universities have supply chain curriculum. The data I received from the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) revealed 162 students in the supply chain program during the 2018 to 2019 school year. That is a tiny .02 percent of the 826,494 total population of students enrolled in the business discipline.

Why is supply chain management not getting solid foothold in Philippine academics?

Several reasons. Like any business, profit is a deciding factor for schools to open a new program. The lack of public awareness about the supply chain will yield to lower enrollees, and in turn, will generate insufficient income to pay faculty salaries and other costs. There is also an inadequate collaboration between the industry and universities to launch this program. Further, the supply chain function including logistics, procurement, and operations are viewed by many as a support department rather than a strategic driver. It makes the supply chain discipline less lucrative to invest in academics. But from an industry perspective, it is a field needing investment.

Meanwhile, supply chain organizations have stepped up in providing training and certification to equip the work force with the latest knowledge and skill. However, universities play a crucial role to sustain talent development towards the future.

The evolving marketplace calls for schools to recalibrate their business curricula to ensure graduates have the relevant skills needed in the 21st century. And supply chain is undeniably the area requiring an urgent response from academics because of a talent shortage pummeling this industry-driven field.

To roll out a supply chain program, colleges should partner with the industry so they can tailor their curriculum based on real-world input. This partnership allows industry experts to teach as they have specific and deeper expertise in this field, making the program competitive. Experts can bring real cases in the classroom, allowing students to develop solutions and use critical thinking skills. Besides, an internship should be part of the academic journey so that students can work on real projects and build professional connections.

Companies rely heavily on their supply chain for their growth because they understand that if costs across the supply chain are reduced along with improved efficiency, overall financial performance increases. This fact should trigger stakeholders—students, universities, and industry—to advance the supply chain education in the country.

This article first appeared in the BusinessMirror.

Marvin Bunyag, CPIM provides analysis and insights into the most trending news in the supply chain management space in the Philippines. Along with solid experience in the industry, he holds MS in Operations and Supply Management from the University of Wisconsin. You can reach him at marvinbunyag@explorescm.com.

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