Across a number of fields, Industry 4.0 — the mass adoption of advanced technologies like artificial intelligence, cobots and internet of things devices — has rapidly changed the kinds of skills that employers are looking for. The result is a skills gap affecting multiple industries, and the supply chain skills market is no exception.
More than 65 percent of supply chain professionals currently view hiring as one of the top challenges facing the supply chain — and at the moment, there’s no evidence that the trend will reverse anytime soon. As a result, supply chain professionals are spending more and more time thinking about how to close the supply chain skills gap.
Here is the current state of the supply chain skills market, and how industry professionals think that we can close the skills gap.
The Evolving Supply Chain
Major shakeups are happening right now in the supply chain and related industries, spurred by the adoption of advanced computer and robotics technology. Across these fields, digital skills are becoming highly valued — and sometimes, even common requirements in job descriptions.
Today, it’s not uncommon for supply chain companies to be looking for employees that are computer literate and have strong digital skills.
The supply chain is rapidly evolving, and as a result, a lack of technical knowledge among older workers is creating significant difficulties for supply chain recruiters. While younger workers are more likely to possess computer skills and have a familiarity with new technologies, their numbers often can’t make up for how many older workers are being left behind by advancing technology each year.
Closing the Skills Gap
Supply chain professionals are divided on the best way to close the skill gap.
Some professionals believe that reverse mentoring programs can close the supply chain skills gap. In a reverse mentoring program, younger workers — who are more likely to possess the computer skills and technical backgrounds needed by supply chain companies — mentor older workers who haven’t picked up those skills. If successful, these programs can maintain talented staff with years of supply chain experience by teaching them the technology skills they need.
Reverse mentoring programs also benefit the mentor. Older employees are more likely to have experience in selecting supply chain equipment or working with other supply chain employees, granting them insights that they can pass on to younger workers.
Improved education programs
Better supply chain and logistics education programs could also help ensure that younger workers entering the field are equipped with the skills they need to be successful. These programs could also help train older workers who have been displaced by advancing skill requirements.
According to LinkedIn’s 2018 Workplace Learning Report, most executives consider soft skills to be more valuable than technical skills. While universities may succeed in providing students with a technical background, their programs may not properly teach the soft skills that younger workers need.
As a result, these workers are either forced to pick up these skills on the job, making them less effective — or even prevent them from entering the field. Improved education programs that also teach the soft skills side of the supply chain industry could help prepare younger workers for entry-level positions in the supply chain.
Other professionals are more concerned about what they perceive to be a lack of understanding about the supply chain industry, which they believe is pushing talented young workers away from considering the field.
These professionals see the skills gap as more of a public relations problem than one of education. Outside of the industry, the supply chain is sometimes viewed as technologically backwards, or the kind of field that would be a bad fit for tech-savvy workers.
For those professionals concerned about the supply chain’s reputation, mentoring and education won’t be enough. Instead, they think that supply chain businesses need to find ways to demonstrate that the supply chain is technologically advanced — and that many supply chain companies have already embraced a variety of new technologies and cultivated a digitally-savvy company culture.
A more accurate public image could encourage technologically literate students and professionals from outside of the field to consider a career change into the supply chain.
Responding to the Supply Chain Skills Gap
Right now, the supply chain is being revolutionized by a number of new technologies that are providing logistics companies with more information about the supply chain than ever before.
At the same time, however, this rapid adoption of new technologies is creating a serious skills gap that supply chain companies are finding difficult to respond to.
Industry professionals have already proposed a few different solutions to the skills gap. Some are most interested in employee training and education and are pushing companies to invest in reverse mentoring programs and closer relationships with university programs.
Other professionals consider the skills gap to be more of a public relations issue — and that the supply chain is failing to attract skilled workers due to its reputation outside of the field. According to these professionals, companies will need to demonstrate their technical savvy in order to recruit the workers they need.
Megan Ray Nichols is a freelance technical writer. She also runs her own blog, Schooled By Science, a blog dedicated to making complicated scientific topics easier to understand. You can follow Megan on Twitter @nicholsrmegan to keep up with the latest news.
Header photo: tomazl – Getty Images