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VOL. 123 | NO. 85 | Wednesday, April 30, 2008

CSCMP Roundtable To Examine Next Generation

By Eric Smith

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"The level of importance varies according to the company, but every company has a supply chain, whether it's a newspaper or a university or somebody like FedEx."

Dr. Ernie Nichols
Director of the University of Memphis' FedEx Center for Supply Chain Management

Dr. Ernie Nichols of the University of Memphis understands how a career in supply chain management doesn't hold the cachet of more popular professions.

"There's very few kids sitting around in middle school or high school talking about what they want to be when they grow up, saying, 'I want to be senior vice president of global supply chain,'" said Nichols, director of the FedEx Center for Supply Chain Management at the U of M.

Not surprisingly, Nichols wants to change that perception.

In light of the limited number of supply chain professionals being educated in that specific field - coupled with a growing need for them in an increasingly flat world - demand has increased exponentially in the past few years, giving students ample opportunity for jobs in Memphis and across the globe.

"One of the big challenges that organizations face is a shortage of qualified workers and managers," Nichols said. "And like a lot of other parts of the business world, we've got a lot of the baby boom generation that's getting close to retirement - so who's going to replace these people?"


Preparing for boom times

Nichols will discuss possible solutions to that problem and others May 15 at the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) roundtable discussion.

His presentation is titled "Educating for the New Supply Chain," to be held at the Holiday Inn-University of Memphis along Central Avenue. Registration is at 5:30 p.m., with dinner and the program starting at 6; cost is $35 for CSCMP members and students and $40 for nonmembers.

Nichols, who also is associate professor of supply chain management at the U of M's Fogelman College of Business and Economics, said many of the professionals who wind up managing the supply chains for companies didn't earn their degrees in that discipline.

And while the concept of global supply chains has been around for some time, he said, "It's still an area that is relatively new; it's one where a lot of people that are in the discipline did not have formal training."

That's where educators and professionals in the supply chain realm need to make sure the next generation of American workers is ready for what should be a booming job market.

"It's still an area where we've got to do a better job of letting people know what the career opportunities are," Nichols said. "We have a relatively small number of supply chain management majors at the University of Memphis, but it's a situation where we've only had a supply chain management degree for a very few years."


Memphis as a lab

That is changing. The University of Memphis has been offering logistics and supply chain management courses since 2002. And now, even the smallest colleges are adding those degrees to the mix.

For example, in 2007 the Roanoke, Va.-based National College of Business and Technology (NCBT) began offering a new associate's degree program in logistics and supply chain management at its Memphis campus.

It was the first such program for any of the national college's campuses, but launching its initial logistics degree here made sense.

"As we looked at our markets, we found that they're in dire need of logistics personnel," Cyndee Perdue Moore, NCBT's regional director of operations for Tennessee, told The Daily News last year. "And we thought it was a natural fit to start the program in Memphis."

Memphis indeed is a good place to prepare for and start a career in logistics and supply chain management. Not only do schools such as the University of Memphis and NCBT offer the educational resources, but plenty of internships exist here thanks to the city's myriad logistics and distribution centers.

And Nichols will tell the CSCMP roundtable that there should be more.

"We are operating in a pretty impressive lab opportunity," he said. "Our students could have the opportunity not just to do summer internships but chances to do internships during their academic programs. And some are doing that; I just think there are opportunities to take it to a whole other level."

As the supply chain evolves, becoming more reliant on technology and specialty skills, it will be imperative for companies to have a qualified work force.

"C-level officers in organizations are coming to view supply chain management as being a strategic activity," Nichols said. "It's not just something that we put on automatic pilot and hope it all works out. Companies are seeing that it's a strategic activity that can help them compete - not just on minimizing cost, but to help generate additional revenues if your company does a better job getting its product to market than your competitors.

"The level of importance varies according to the company, but every company has a supply chain, whether it's a newspaper or a university or somebody like FedEx."

RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 62 288 2,619
MORTGAGES 52 197 1,783
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 16 53 275
BUILDING PERMITS 0 569 5,701
BANKRUPTCIES 0 87 993
BUSINESS LICENSES 0 110 491
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 0 0 0
MARRIAGE LICENSES 0 0 0