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Rising stars: ThomasNet and ISM kick off the second “30 Under 30 Rising Supply Chain Stars” program

Initiative designed to acknowledge the industry best and brightest while attracting new talent prepares to head into its third year.

Millennials are now the largest living generation in the US and by 2025 will make up 75 percent of the workforce. That’s already having an impact on business as old guys like me (age 59) leave the workforce and pass the torch to 25 year olds like my daughter.

The supply chain is as vulnerable to these changes as any industry, and maybe more so. Last year, Christopher Craighead and Kusamol Ruamsook wrote about the supply chain talent perfect storm headed for our industry, a combination of too much demand, too few up and comers in the pipeline to meet too much demand, complicated by the retirement of the current leaders and a lack of resources in academia.

All of which leads to the second “30 Under 30 Rising Supply Chain Stars” Recognition Program, sponsored by ThomasNet and ISM and announced this week in Phoenix at ISM 2015. The program recognizes 30 young professionals under the age of 30 who have been nominated by their colleagues, their superiors, and, in one case, self-nominated, because their initiative, collaboration, innovation and/or leadership are already bolstering the profession.

Tom Derry, ISM’s CEO, acknowledged the approaching perfect storm this week, while acknowledging the need for the industry to get onboard now so that we have time to train and mentor the next generation before the Boomers retire. He also acknowledged the challenge of attracting the millennial generation to the industry. “These young professionals are socially conscious and want to make a difference to their organizations and communities,” Derry said.

So who are these rising stars? You can read about them at length here. Based on the 6 who gathered for a press conference yesterday, they’re an accomplished bunch: One devised a new approach to one supplier relationship that yielded big savings across half that vendor’s profile; another implemented a reverse auction process for employee benefits contracts, saving a county government $7 million; a third led an initiative to implement a global supply chain collaboration system – while running a food blog.

While their resumes were impressive, three things during the press conference really struck me.

The first was their genuine enthusiasm for the industry. Sure, you expect folks to say nice things about their jobs when they’re being handed an award and know that they’re being recorded – hey, the boss could hear this! Amy Schwantner, a 29 year old former financial analyst who is now a manager of strategic sourcing at CBS, was not alone when she said she felt like she’d found her calling when she switched from finance to procurement.

The other was that only one of the group at the press conference intended to get into supply chain management. Matthew Bauer, a 29 year old procurement administrator with the City of Mesa, Arizona, went to Arizona State University because they had a supply chain program. He recalled how a relative tried to talk him into changing his major but he stuck with the degree. The others, more or less, stumbled into the industry. It tells us that we have our work cut out for us to find that next generation of talent.

The last was how to keep talent from a generation that is allegedly fickle about staying in one place, or one job, for very long. Katy Conrad Maynor, an Ohio State grad who is now living in London, where she is a category manager for Shell Oil, advised managers to take the time to get to know their millennial employees and mentor their careers. “Managers need to view that time as an investment” in the future of our businesses, she advised.

For those of us thinking about the coming talent perfect storm, including the materials handling industry.

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About the Author

Bob Trebilcock's avatar
Bob Trebilcock
Bob Trebilcock is the executive editor for Modern Materials Handling and an editorial advisor to Supply Chain Management Review. He has covered materials handling, technology, logistics, and supply chain topics for nearly 30 years. He is a graduate of Bowling Green State University. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at 603-852-8976.
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