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Supply chains worldwide are hiring, or at least they should be.

Imagine you are a relatively small food retailer, with five stores in a medium sized city. For the sake of simplicity, let’s say you only sell four types of food, namely oranges, apples, pears and avocados. Now, for every product you deal you will need at least a couple of suppliers, since you want a back-up option in case one of them fails to deliver. Let’s assume each supplier has 5 people working for them. Furthermore, you wish to digitize the procurement process for data protection and organizational purposes, so you can make sure you don’t end up with backlogs or an empty inventory. To accomplish this task, you get your IT person to help the logistics department. Finally, your brand has become quite popular lately due to the quality of the products and there’s a lot of talk about you, so you want your reputation to be enhanced. Thus, you make room in the budget to hire a consultant to make sure your practices are sustainable, and the business positions itself as a modern, ethical and eco-friendly brand.

This hypothetical scenario of a relatively simple supply chain includes about fifty professional figures, including your internal resources, consultants and suppliers. Now imagine this complexity applied to a multinational corporation with over 1,000 stores around the world and a hundred different products. It is worth considering that companies such as Target, Walmart or Sainsbury’s have well over 1,000 sales points and include hundreds of products. It is pointless to even calculate the number of staff involved in their supply chains. To get a sense of the business size revolving around supply chain, the global logistics market size is estimated at 5.5 trillion euros, while the global contracts logistics amounts to over 200 billion euros[1].

A report by the International Labour Organization (ILO) reveals not only that supply chain jobs have been growing in the past few years but also that the skills required have become increasingly complex and diversified. What they call the “servification” of supply chains is the need for increasingly varied types of qualifications[2], such as digitization experts, physical transport services and logistics managers. Recalling the fictitious example at the beginning of this article, you might also have to dedicate resources to socially responsible and corporate communications policies involving your supply network.

There is also a political angle to the global supply chain workforce, as different countries might compete to bring back jobs they outsourced in the past, attracting capital and skilled talent towards their own domestic markets. The same ILO report also mentions that the growth of supply chain jobs worldwide has become an advantage for countries like China or Brazil that have risen in the global arena in the last two decades.

Moving away from the macroeconomic stage for a moment, what this means for supply chain professionals in their everyday business activities is that they are facing a labour shortage and there is an increasing need for fresh new talent in the field. This shortage is felt across several geographical regions, with a report estimating that, in the US, demand exceeds supply (of talent) by six times. This lack of skilled staff is exacerbated by the fact that the skillset is changed, so young professionals won’t just have to replace retirees, but they will basically need to learn how to do a very different type of job compared to the previous generation[3].

Some useful tips for companies to tighten this gap could be the following:

  1. Make sure recruiting talented employees becomes one of your priorities. Supply chains are not peripheral to operations, they are a core element for a business. Consider the people who work in this field an asset and invest in them;

  2. Establish traineeships that allow for a learning curve, in this way junior staff will have the chance to become familiar with the job;

  3. Partner up with universities and professional associations, they usually are a good hub for talent you can scout;

  4. Do not forget you need people with innovative mindsets and different backgrounds. Look for those who also are familiar with rising trends, such as digitization or sustainability, and can give you an edge on your competitors;

  5. Read industry resources such as research reports, blogs and magazines to stay on top of the latest developments.

Similarly, newcomers to the industry should make some adjustments too:

  1. Follow some training courses, there are several quality resources you can access for free or reasonable prices out there. Invest in yourself;

  2. Get in touch with professionals in the field through email or social media platforms such as Linked in. Get to know the industry before you apply for a job;

  3. Make sure you become as knowledgeable as you can on the latest trends, so employers can see your real added value. Companies won’t hire you if you show a lack of interest or effort, regardless of the labour shortage;

  4. Consider getting a professional qualification or an advanced degree in supply chain management, there are several offered by many institutions. You can even choose a specific subject such as automation or risk management.

[1] [2] [3]

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