Polk State’s Jenn Bish is the first to admit that most people have no idea what she’s talking about when she tells them she oversees the Associate in Science in Supply Chain Management degree program.
The term “supply chain management” is broad and vague, and it encompasses all kinds of processes that most people never give a moment’s thought. Processes like procurement and warehousing, distribution and packaging — literally every step involved in transforming raw materials into finished goods.
Here, Bish dispels some of the supply chain management mystery, and leaves us with two key takeaways: There are jobs to be had in supply chain management, and they pay very good money.
1. Give us the elevator speech about supply chain management. How do you explain the industry to people who don’t know what it is?
Supply chain management deals with everything from purchasing to transportation management to warehouse management to production planning to logistics. If you think through the steps it took to get the shirt you are wearing made, packaged, transported, labeled, and eventually on a store rack — that’s the supply chain. Supply chain management is essentially the coordination of all these functions, ensuring that the process is smooth and accurate from start to finish.
2. Talk to us about the supply chain management industry here in Polk County. How big is it? How much opportunity does it present for Polk State graduates?
Polk County is an incredible place to get started in the supply chain management industry. We’re located in the heart of the state, right along the Interstate 4 corridor, and major companies such as Saddle Creek Logistics, Walmart, Publix and Amazon — all of which are warehousing, transporting and distributing tremendous amounts of products — have operations right here in Polk. This industry is currently one of the largest employment sectors in the county, and it is projected to continue growing as new companies locate here and current companies expand. This growth means more opportunities for our students to be hired and advance within the supply chain management industry.
3. What skills do employers in the industry need? Who is “right” for this field?
Employers are looking for people with critical-thinking skills. I like to say that a job in supply chain management is like solving a puzzle every day. You have to make pieces fit together in the most efficient, cost-effective way possible. But what is efficient and cost-effective today may not be so tomorrow, because in supply chain management, things change frequently, based on demand, transportation rates, natural disasters, port strikes — you name it. Being able to react intelligently and think critically are key to a management role in supply chain. Critical-thinking skills are gender-neutral, making this an excellent field for both men and women.
4. What is the most challenging part of running the Supply Chain Management Program?
Attracting traditional students. Our program is largely comprised of incumbent workers who are returning for a degree in order to advance their careers. These students are fantastic and their experiences make for great classroom discussion, but I’d like to see us hit more of a 50/50 balance. I find that a lot of high-school students have never heard of supply chain management or logistics. This is a dynamic and growing industry that offers the potential to make great money. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2012, cargo and freight agents made an annual salary of $40,250, transportation supervisors made $53,240, buyers and purchasing agents made $60,550 and distribution managers made $83,890. Salaries are going to vary widely based on education, employer, experience, of course, but that gives you an idea of the salary potential within supply chain management. I’d like to see more students consider supply chain when they are thinking about future careers.
5. During the course of their degree studies, supply chain students have the ability to earn certificates that are immediately applicable to the workforce. How does that work and how does that benefit the students?
The Associate in Science in Supply Chain Management has an 18-credit-hour certificate built into it — the Logistics and Transportation Specialist Certificate. The certificate is comprised of six core courses that can be completed in one year. Students can add this credential to their resumes while completing the rest of the coursework for their degrees. Polk State is also an approved waiver school for the Professional Designation in Logistics and Supply Chain Management through the American Society of Transportation & Logistics (ASTL). This allows our program graduates to receive a national certification upon graduation. As a waiver school, our curriculum is approved by the ASTL and students do not have to sit for the exam to receive the certification.
For more information on the Supply Chain Management Program, contact Bish at email@example.com or 863.669.2820.