Reading through the Canadian Supply Chain Sector Council’s 2012 HR Study Update I must admit I’m worried about the future of supply chain innovation in Canada. Innovation often comes from new blood being brought into the profession; from people who are willing and able to look at things just a bit differently than past practice would dictate.
Yet as the study’s findings indicate, attracting a sufficient amount of new blood to meet the expected demand for supply chain employees over the next five years will be a distinct challenge.
Based on the current sector total of 767,200 employees, an annual employee demand growth rate of 8.6% will result in approximately 65,979 new and vacant positions to be filled. In addition, respondents to the employer survey indicate current unmet employment demand of 3.5%, resulting in the need to fill approximately 26,852 current vacant positions within the sector. As the report points out, “this is an enormous challenge.”
Particularly discouraging is that many of the issues identified back in 2005 as keeping supply chain operations from attracting the amount and quality of new entrants remain unresolved, including:
• Low awareness and understanding of the sector (resulting in recruitment issues);
• Lack of the required skills among new recruits (particularly leadership skills);
• Small and diminishing talent pool (due to poaching and retirement);
The CSCSC got the ball rolling in terms of awareness by clearly defining the sector through development of national occupation classification (NOC) codes and by developing their corresponding job descriptions. It has also addressed awareness issues through outreach activities, such as the CSCSC led Toronto District School Board project; career presentations to conferences of professional associations in career and guidance positions; national career fairs and support of local career events; and creating a Recruitment & Retention Toolkit with speakers notes and collateral including videos for stakeholders to use in presenting to high schools
This is necessary work and more of it needs to be done. I agree with the report’s recommendation that a national strategy is required and additional resources should be sought to continue work on sector promotion and development of additional human resource initiatives. Targeting high school students, immigrants, women, mature workers who are retraining for second careers, and Aboriginal peoples in Canada also makes sense.
How does one reconcile the need for investment in such a strategy, however, with Ottawa’s drastic cuts to sector councils?
In a tight labour market it will not be sufficient to simply attract new supply chain professionals; they will need to be retained. As the report points out, this doesn’t mean just competitive salaries. Both the report and our own research show supply chain professionals are not primarily motivated by money, but rather by the opportunities the sector provides. So to hang on to these professionals, employers will need to concentrate on providing greater clarity in terms of career paths and provide, more flexible working arrangements, and accommodating membership and participation in industry associations. The research found that employees who are members of supply chain associations have better career outcomes and lower turnover.
What the report found about education and training is also a concern. The learning institutions believed the students entering the work force were well trained. However, employers believed that new entrants lack the decision making and leadership skills needed to succeed in the field. Sounds like there is not enough communication going on between employers and the education and training system, as the report points out. The CSCSC provides information about the training requirements of various occupations within the supply chain so that potential entrants are aware of the skills employers require. This needs to be continually updated if we are going to be serious about getting the right job candidates.
But again, this and the other recommendations included in the report require a commitment by government, industry and the educational institutions to a human resource strategy that is national in scope, visionary in design, consistent in application, and, just as importantly, properly funded.
Let’s continue the conversation on supply chain issues. Join me at two special events coming this
spring: the Supply Chain Canada conference, May 8-9, International Centre, Toronto (go to www.supplychaincanada.com to register), and the Carbon Economy Summit, June 6, Metro Toronto Convention Centre (go to www.carboneconomysummit.ca to register).
With more than 25 years of experience reporting on transportation issues, Lou is one of the more recognizable personalities in the industry. An award-winning writer well known for his insightful writing and meticulous market analysis, he is a leading authority on industry trends and statistics. All posts by Lou Smyrlis