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Supply Chain University

Optimizing educational opportunties in an ever-changing environment

It’s not easy being a supply chain professional in the fresh produce industry. On top of the recurring challenges of protecting product quality, securing transportation capacity, and ensuring inventory availability, supply chain roles are becoming more strategic. You have to collaborate with stakeholders, support traceability initiatives, and drive profitability.

This changing environment calls for a broader set of skills and abilities. Supply chain managers must build expertise in analytics, finance, technology, and leadership. These aptitudes are often not covered in undergraduate education or generated through on-the-job training. Hence, produce professionals must engage in lifelong learning to expand their competencies and keep pace with change.

In the time and resource constrained produce industry, how can busy supply chain professionals pursue continuing education? This article identifies three university-related programs to foster your expertise, your career prospects, and your company’s success. You should pursue professional development options, certificate and certification programs, and/or graduate school to maintain your competitive edge. Each offers a significant value proposition.

Professional Development
Universities offer a wide range of independent learning opportunities that are not tied to a degree program. These professional development programs range from self-study programs to multiweek executive education programs. Universities offer a variety of educational resources that can accommodate your available time and budget.

Many universities offer complimentary access to their supply chain management (SCM) knowledge base. Periodic webinars provide insight into hot topics, annual studies reveal the latest industry issues and trends, and white papers highlight managerial implications of ongoing academic research. Often, these resources are publicly available via supply chain research center websites. For example, the University of Arkansas SCM Research Center provides case studies, faculty white papers, and project updates. Arkansas is one of more than two dozen SCM research centers that provide high level educational resources.

According to Dr. Terry Esper, executive director of the Arkansas SCM Research Center, “the strategic emphasis of our Center is on retail supply chain management and transportation issues,” he explains. “The Center brings together our faculty and corporate partners to discuss hot topics, investigate emerging trends, and serve as a thought leadership and knowledge resource for the supply chain community. We do this through our published research, conferences, and student development activities.”

Short courses present another professional development opportunity. These two- to five-day courses take a deep dive into specific SCM topics with sessions led by faculty and/or industry experts. Participants engage in case studies, discussion groups, and simulations to strengthen their knowledge base and hone applicable workplace skills.

Georgia Institute of Technology is a leading provider of continuing education courses through the Supply Chain and Logistics Institute. The Institute offers a calendar of multiday courses covering the full spectrum of supply chain topics, from demand planning to lean supply chain operations. The university has also recently established the Integrated Food Chain Center, a joint industry/academic initiative to identify and resolve critical integration issues across the end-to-end food chain.