SCM Education Takes Off

Supply Chain Management Education Takes Off


This fall, it’s projected more than 20 million students will attend a college or university in the U.S.  Many of these higher education students are heading off to study a rapidly growing program that was barely in existence until more recent years.   Supply Chain Management (SCM) is one of the hottest areas of study as more and more companies across various industries are focused on improvements to their distribution, transportation, logistics, and operational activities.

Companies will continue to make significant changes upstream and downstream in the supply chain to be leaner, faster, and more competitive in a global marketplace; this bodes well for our future SCM graduates.

Supply and Demand

Given the end goal of higher education is often to fill a need or skills gap in the marketplace, it’s no wonder why Supply Chain Management has become such a growing area of study.  According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, supply chain logisticians will experience an employment increase of approximately 22 percent by the year 2022.  In addition, the Material Handling Industry (MHI) projects the logistics industry will seek to “fill about 1.4 million jobs, or roughly 270,000 per year by 2018.”

Additional research supports this tremendous job outlook. Western Michigan University estimates there is a 2-to-1 ratio of Supply Chain Management jobs to applicable degree holders.  Moreover, research giant, Gartner Inc., reports that 76% of Supply Chain Management program graduates are placed in a related job at graduation, jumping to an impressive 93% employment rate within just three months post-graduation.  [Click here to download Gartner’s 2016 complete report on Supply Chain Management educational programs]

When taking into consideration the projected job growth, the present high demand of supply chain management talent, the placement success of supply chain graduates, and the lack of supply of those trained in the industry, it only makes sense that Supply Chain Management educational programs – undergraduate and graduate-level – are on the rise in terms of offerings and student enrollment.

Schools Get on Board

Though the need for Supply Chain Management services among manufacturers and suppliers has long existed and has been continually evolving over much of the 20th and now the 21st centuries, formal education in related disciplines has developed at a much slower pace.  In fact, the term Supply Chain Management in education didn’t surface until much later.  The earliest programs in supply chain-related studies were often labeled with terms including transportation, physical distribution, and logistics.

Syracuse University in New York claims the first formal supply chain management educational program in the U.S.  The year was 1919 when the university first offered a specialization in “Traffic and Transportation.” An actual major in “Transportation” was offered just two years later, in 1921.  The college’s program remains on Gartner’s top 25 list of Supply Chain Management programs today.  Also on Gartner’s list, the University of Tennessee is another widely regarded early pioneer in the industry, with one of the country’s oldest Supply Chain Management programs.

As the demand for Supply Chain Management talent has increased rapidly and significantly, so has the development of formal education in the discipline, including undergraduate and graduate degrees, certificates and specializations. According to Dana Stiffler, research vice president at Gartner, an increasing number of universities are creating supply chain degree programs and specializations, or they are “’rebranding logistics, transportation and operations research programs as supply chain.’”

In just two years’ time – from 2014 to 2016 – enrollment in the top 25-ranked supply chain management programs (as ranked by Gartner) grew a staggering 43%; an enrollment increase from 8,500 to 12,200 full-time students.

For companies in search of transportation and logistics talent, the future recruitment pool will continue to grow and help is on the way.  For students in undergraduate or graduate supply chain programs, the trends and data validate your wise decision (and investment); you are on the favorable side of the supply and demand curve.

Watch for our next article in this series which will feature SCM Education with a spotlight on Michigan-based colleges and universities!   

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