I have had a number of questions around my view on supply chain management (SCM) as a career path. A follow-up query has been around the availability of jobs within the SCM field. This article is aimed at giving you my perspective under the follow headings:
- Is SCM a recommended career choice?
- Are there jobs readily available? (Dependent on your experience / skill level)
- What you can do to break through?
1. Is SCM a recommended career choice?
The short answer is YES given that there will always be a need for supply chain professionals.
Some of my reasons, whilst not exhaustive are:
- All products and services are dependent on having a supply chain which converts a range of inputs (materials) via a series of processes (planning, sourcing, manufacturing, warehouse & distribution) into an output that the customer needs.
- The supply chain is a vast field and SCM broadly covers the plan, source, make, deliver and reverse logistics functions. This therefore provides sufficient opportunity for individuals to either become specialists in a sub-section or to become supply chain generalists by gaining experience across the chain.
- Having individuals with the correct mix of qualifications, skills and experience in ensuring a supply chain that is optimally managed. This is crucial to providing a product or service that meets customer requirements in terms of cost, quality, service, etc.
- Driving continuous improvement requires skilled individuals.
- Can be an extremely rewarding career choice.
2. Are there jobs readily available?
The reality is my answer will be a YES and NO. If you are an experienced and qualified individual, then the opportunities are substantially higher and your probability of finding employment is higher. If however you are starting your career and hence short on experience, then you will find yourself with fewer opportunities and competing against a larger pool of job seekers.
Given the economic challenges which have been compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic, organisations are also facing immense pressure to streamline operations and reduce expenses. People costs have been one of the areas that organisations look at reducing, hence reducing opportunities.
Organisations want individuals that once recruited will ‘hit the road running’ and therefore look at those that come with a higher level of experience and skill.
Notwithstanding what I have said above, all is not doom and gloom. Below are some thoughts on what the various stakeholders, including yourself can do to help yourself.
3. What you can do to break through?
For an individual to kickstart their career we have to acknowledge that a concerted effort is required from all roles players i.e. job seekers, SCM graduates, educational institutions and employees within the private and public sector. I am of the belief that if recruiters are looking to employ individuals with experience, then the role players described above have a role to play to prepare graduate level job seekers. Some of my thoughts on what can be done to enable entry level job seekers to break through are:
a) Supply chain graduate or currently studying
You need to ensure that your resume has content that makes you unique. Most recruiters understand that you will not have supply chain experience, but you can take certain actions to bolster your resume. Some of these are:
- Consistently get good marks across the duration of your studies. It will demonstrate your dedication, ability to handle pressure and consistency in achieving good marks.
- Any experience that demonstrates your drive is beneficial. Some of the ways to achieve this is:
- Offer academic tutoring to other students at your institution
- Get involved with available bodies (example: professional, student, charities, religious and cultural bodies)
- Get a part time job
- Explore how to give back to your community (example: tutoring high school students)
- Mentor and coach entry level students within your tertiary institution to assist them in making the transition to the new environment
- Explore how you can get yourself a mentor or coach
The above will teach you relevant skills and teach soft skills that will serve you well during the recruitment process.
b) Tertiary institution
- Provide a formal coaching and mentorship program for students
- Provide practical exposure to supply chains via industry visits and interaction with supply chain professionals
- Institution to drive student chapters of relevant professional bodies
- Implement work readiness programs
Employers could look at some of the following options which will increase the exposure of students to the supply chain environment:
- Internship programs
- Learnerships and other SETA related offerings
- Holiday work opportunities
- Setting up coaching and mentoring programs for schools and tertiary institutions
The above article described a few actions that various stakeholders can and may be taking already. Whilst different stakeholders can take different actions, the key question you should be asking is what actions are within your control? You can choose to wait for others, or you can decide to do what is within your control.
In keeping with my thoughts of sharing knowledge and uplifting our youth, Nikshen Consulting in partnership with The Supply Chain Academy-SCA(SA) is offering students and graduates an opportunity to join us for coaching and mentorship interactions at no cost. If you are keen, contact us via our website for more information and include your contact details with a subject of 2020 GradEmpo.
“Theory is everywhere, education is getting the student to apply their minds differently & embedding a way of thinking”
Dr Kenneth Moodley is an experienced supply chain and business professional with over 25 years’ experience. He has a demonstrated history of working with both big corporates (example: Unilever & The South African Breweries) and SMME’s (Productivity SA) in various industry sectors as a senior Supply Chain Specialist, Leader and Business Coach. In addition to his supply chain experience, he is a skilled business turnaround strategist and is a registered senior business rescue practitioner.