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Supply Chain Canada: Canada’s got talent

Experts weigh in on drawing young workers to supply chain roles


May 15, 2012
by By Michael Power

MISSISSAUGA: How can organizations attract new talent and graduating students to supply chain? That was the central question during a panel discussion May 8 at Supply Chain Canada’s 45th Annual Conference and Trade Show.

Supply chain programs focus recruiting efforts on higher levels within education, said panel member Charles Minken, program coordinator and professor of international business at Sheraton Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning. One part of the solution is to focus on attracting fresh blood at lower education levels like high school.

“You have to go to the guidance councilors and business teachers and somehow embed supply chain into the curriculum,” he said.

Also helpful is to provide internships and co-op programs for college graduates so they can get on-the-job experience, Minken noted. In some countries such as Germany, he said, graduates must complete a 10-month internship in order to graduate.

Younger people especially are motivated by factors other than money,” said Andrew Jordan, managing director, Triskell Consulting Inc. “They want to be part of something bigger,” he said.

Maria Atkins, VP of HR central retail operations, Loblaw Companies, agreed that today’s employees look for more than just a paycheck when seeking a job. Sustainability and corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives also help attract young candidates who want to feel connected to an organization’s values, she said.

Loblaw has a program in which graduates spend 18 months working in various roles in the organization’s stores—a program that involves working within the supply chain.

“People don’t come out of school looking for a job in transport or supply chain,” she said. “If you can move people laterally, they get to see there’s a career path (in the field).”

Along with exposing workers to supply chain opportunities, such arrangements allow cross-functional training, Atkins said. Those in the program get an overview of on-the-ground operations rather than separate components. Supply chain workers can supplement their expertise with, for example, experience in merchandizing. The organization co-locates supply chain workers with areas like merchandizing so they get a better appreciation of the function.

Having flexibility and an awareness of the need for a work-life balance will also help attract talent, Atkins said. “It’s about thinking ahead strategically,” she said. “Vacation may be more important to someone than pension, for example.”

Jordan noted that while young people may be interested in more flexible work arrangements, such as working remotely, interest in such arrangements continues as employees age. For example, older workers may want to work at home due to family obligations or to help aging parents. “It’s not just young people,” he noted.

As well, image is important in attracting talent. Supply chain is still largely known as a back-office role, Jordan said. He recommended organizations perform an “internal branding exercise” to let people know the field is actually customer-oriented would also help attract workers.