CSCMP's Supply Chain Quarterly
December 16, 2017
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A do-it-yourself approach to filling the supply chain talent shortage

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Formal academic degree programs won't fully meet the growing need for professionals with industry-specific knowledge. An education program designed for the automotive industry offers a potential solution.

For executives and managers in logistics, supply chain, procurement, and material handling, the biggest worry today may be the worldwide shortage of knowledgeable, trained, experienced professionals in those fields. The shortage is real, and organizations are right to be concerned. Just look at the results of recent research reports such as Deloitte Consulting's 2015 Supply Chain Survey and that will become clear.

One issue many companies are grappling with is that although more students than ever are graduating with degrees in supply chain-related disciplines, formal academic programs typically do not provide industry- or company-specific knowledge. University programs also generally focus more on theory and analysis than on hands-on operations. It's true that once hired, individuals can learn how to apply academic theory in "real life," but in practice, such one-by-one training can't keep up with the demand for that type of knowledge and experience.

That's why two years ago the automotive industry took the bold step of developing its own logistics training curriculum. BVL Campus, the educational arm of the German logistics association BVL, and DHL Global Forwarding, which works with automotive companies worldwide, designed a curriculum called Corporate Automotive Logistics Academy 4.0 (CALA 4.0). The academy, which launched in Germany and recently expanded to Brazil, trains experts in automotive logistics using a combination of classes, workshops, and online training. The program currently includes eight modules, beginning with industry trends affecting logistics and supply chain strategy and practices, and then moving through a vehicle's complete lifecycle. BVL and DHL plan to roll out the program worldwide.

The automotive industry, as BVL Executive Board Chair Prof. Thomas Wimmer has said, is one of the most globally networked sectors in terms of sourcing, production, and distribution. As a result, its logistics and supply chain requirements are unique, complex, and constantly changing.

And that is why CALA 4.0 came about. The talent shortage in automotive logistics was becoming so acute that industry leaders feared it would constrain growth, innovation, and ultimately profits. Although that might sound like hyperbole, it is telling that these leaders recognize the truth in something supply chain professionals have been trying to explain for a long time: There is a direct connection between supply chain talent and a company's future success. Perhaps other sectors should consider whether an industry-specific educational model would help fill their own supply chain talent gap.

Toby Gooley is Editor of CSCMP's Supply Chain Quarterly.

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