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By Dan Sanker

Professionals in many industries have observed a notable decline in skills amongst recent graduates. In contrast, during the past two decades Supply Chain Management (SCM) has experienced the opposite; we’ve become a ‘profession’ – with universities adding SCM programs and majors. Although we rarely hear about it, we probably have the best potential talent pool ever.

The industry has quickly become dramatically more sophisticated. There are a host of reasons, including: Globalization, technology, private equity funding, retailer consolidation, ecommerce and economic necessity.

Universities are now giving the industry the close attention it deserves, with several schools adding specialized supply chain programs. According to an article in Bloomberg BusinessWeek, the number of undergraduate SCM programs has risen by 25 percent since 2006. Syracuse is often cited as a top school in the industry, and its history is not uncommon. For example, it wasn’t until 1998 that the Transportation and Distribution Management major was renamed as a Supply Chain Management major. In conjunction with small name changes like these came dramatic curriculum improvements that added a new level of sophistication. There are now 127 universities offering Master’s level programs and 23 SCM Doctoral programs.

David Ecklund, program director of the University of Tennessee's Global Supply Chain Executive MBA program, said the supply chain represents "most of the inventory and a pretty significant majority of the assets. It's the single organization in the company with the most impact on the customer."

“Digital Supply Chain” included the following in the Top 10 of SCM schools: Arizona State, Carnegie Mellon University, HEC Paris, International Institute for Management Development, London Business School, Michigan State, MIT, Rotterdam School of Management, Supply Chain Schools, University of Pennsylvania, and University of South Australia.

Other universities are climbing the ranks, and many have unique advantages. For example, The Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas, sits smack dab in the middle of the largest retail SCM business cluster in the world; with close ties to a business community that hosts about 1,200 consumer goods companies and the largest retailer in the world. That presents a lot of big collaboration opportunities.

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