Last month there was some good news on the employment front. Job openings rose to almost 4 million, or 2.9 unemployed workers for every opening. While this is not exactly full employment, it is significantly better than the 7 to 1 ratio of 2009. According to the Associated Press, the typical ratio is 2 to 1. Last week the Department of Commerce announced that GDP grew by 3.2% in the fourth quarter of 2013. This should bode well for even further improvement.

The supply chain industry however is either in worse shape. Or better depending on your point of view. According to Supply Chain Management Review, the demand for logistics and supply chain talent exceeds the supply by an overwhelming 6 to 1 ratio. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in our industry are expected to grow by 26% between 2010 and 2020, a growth rate more than twice that of all other occupations.

One of the major contributors to the gap between supply and demand is the increasing attention many firms are paying to their supply chains, and the subsequent need for qualified personnel. Not too many years ago, organizations were more compartmentalized, particularly for responsibilities now considered to be links in the supply chain. Most traffic managers, operations managers, and purchasing personnel attempted to minimize the costs of their own functions, and little, if any attention was paid to total costs and tradeoffs among the various activities. That has all changed, creating a demand for managers that have the ability to operate within a collaborative framework. More colleges and universities are offering supply chain majors, but even some of these graduates do not have a proper appreciation or understanding of supply chain tradeoffs,

Another issue has been the rapidly evolving technology being used to manage the various functions in the supply chain. Today’s successful supply chain manager must have a working knowledge of the basic functions and at least a passing familiarity with appropriate technology.

While the shortage of men and women with these qualifications may make it difficult for firms to fill positions, it creates a wonderful opportunity for qualified candidates to enter a discipline that will be both challenging and rewarding.

Written By: Clifford F. Lynch