Lifelong learning is key for supply chain practitioners

Logistics and Supply Chain News

Lifelong learning is propelled by several factors, but the dynamic nature of life and business operations is undoubtedly a major driver. Changes within a company’s operations often force workers to acquire skills and adopt novel approaches to suit new or emerging challenges.

For supply chain practitioners, the continuous twists and turns of our sector have always ensured skills development is high on the agenda. Supply chain is a practice where things don’t run on fixed templates, at least never for long, if at all. This is because frequent changes occur – new supply routes need to be learnt or new supply terms and conditions demand new knowledge and application. Sometimes larger overhauls such as business restructures can impact on supply chain infrastructure and operations.

Scenarios of this nature have traditionally made lifelong learning an integral part of working in a supply chain role. Supply chain has steadily grown to play a major part in the growth of businesses in a whole host of sectors over the last four decades. Recent statistics indicate that supply chain accounts for around 40% of the value of many corporations’ operations costs. This puts supply chain management at the forefront.

It is therefore often an expectation that supply chain practitioners possess skills that will enhance their individual self-development, general management and operational know how. This must include a good understanding of modern equipment, supply chain ERPs and software applications. They must also demonstrate an excellent level of commercial awareness and people management, both when it comes to internal colleagues and external suppliers or regulators.

Some organisations upskill their workforce by granting study time, while others organise training in house. It is also common to see employers sponsor the education of their supply chain personnel via third party short courses as well as standard undergraduate and post-graduate studies.

There are also an increasing number of micro-credential training programs and quality undergraduate and post-graduate studies that mould professionals of varying levels of experience, so they are fit and ready to take on the modern-day challenges of the profession.

For those studying via an apprenticeship route, students should expect to be practically seeking solutions to real live problems in their organisations. Regular undergraduate or post-graduate students, meanwhile, will be focusing on real-world examples through case studies and analysis of contemporary supply chain, logistics and procurement subjects so that the graduates will be value-adding practitioners.

It is a known fact that competition has become less about quality or price. Rather, the main competitive edge now lies in the supply chain which is far reaching in its impact on quality, pricing and market availability.

The most successful businesses will be those who get to the market first and consistently remain visible and accessible. This puts those organisations that invest in lifelong learning of their supply chain workforce in pole position to succeed.

Dr Dauda Hamzat, Principal Lecturer, School of Supply Chain and Project Management at Arden University.

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