In prior commentaries Supply Chain Matters has amplified the growing talent gaps that are today impacting multiple industry supply chains. As more baby boomers reach retirement age, supply chain and procurement executives are looking with trepidation at a looming talent gap. The industry needs an influx of fresh faces, especially professionals drawn from the Millennial generation — people born between 1982 and the early 2000’s.

In May of 2014, The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) and ThomasNet jointly sponsored initiative titled the 30 Under 30 Rising Supply Chain Stars Program. The stated goal of this joint initiative was to advance the future of the supply chain profession thru recognition of up and coming professionals making significant contributions within multi-industry procurement roles.  Current procurement professionals are invited to nominate outstanding practitioners, 30 years old or younger, for broader recognition. A selection committee in-turn evaluates the nominations to select 30 rising stars.

Supply Chain Matters recently had the opportunity to speak Linda Rigano, Executive Director, Media Relations at ThomasNet, and M.L. Peck, Senior Vice President, Programs and Product Development at ISM regarding this program, which this social media publication whole-heartedly supports.

Our discussion touched on a number of perspectives. Regarding the motivations and goals for the program the Annual Industry Barometer research conducted by ThomasNet indicated a high percentage of Baby Boomer age employees among manufacturers with an estimated one-third expected to retire in next few years. Of those planning to retire, one-third indicated no awareness to a succession plan. The study than ascertained what percentage of the manufacturing workforce was of Millennial age, and that turned out to be less than 20 percent. Digging deeper, there was indication that effort to recruit more Millennials seemed to be lacking. More disturbing were indications of negative perceptions among older workers regarding Millennials and their potential contribution to the organization. Another perception was that younger workers were not interested or attracted to a career in either procurement or supply chain management. That led to the joint discussion of what could be done to make a difference and provide broader visibility to the talents and achievements of up and coming professionals in supply chain management. The pilot effort began in January of last year with over 200 nominations received among multiple industry settings by July. The review committee than elected the 30 super stars who were invited to the ISM Annual Conference to be recognized for their achievements.

Regarding impressions of this program thus far, both Linda Rigano and M.L. Peck cited the caliber of nominees, their desire to learn more, do volunteer work and the ability to form teams to discuss what needs to get done, and collaborate in further effort. Nearly three-quarters were female, married and raising families. Many want to lead and make a difference in their roles and in their careers.  These are all important traits to understand. Linda indicated that this was the most rewarding project she has worked upon. Further noted is that ISM members and local chapters have embraced the program, providing local receptions for the winners, and promoting their efforts and achievements. One of last year’s winners has become the second youngest President of a local ISM chapter.

What was also mentioned was the critical importance of mentoring and coaching. Most of last year’s Stars nominated have expressed the value of having coaches and/or mentors.

At this year’s Annual ISM Conference scheduled for May 3-6 in Phoenix, the 2015 Stars will be announced and provided recognition. For additional background and information regarding last year’s 30 Under 30 Rising Supply Chain Stars, our readers can review a recent ISM Inside Supply Management article profiling this program and how to get involved. For our part, we will continue to profile cited young professionals and rising stars on this blog, including those recognized by ISM.

A final takeaway for our Supply Chain Matters readers is that the challenge of recruiting, mentoring and retaining needed supply chain talent is being embraced by most all supply chain focused professional organizations.  Millennials are indeed the future of new talent entering our community. In addition to the ISM initiative, both the Association of Operations Management (APICS) and the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) have ongoing initiatives, programs and activities directed at talent management and attracting new talent of all ages.

Get involved, be active and be supportive. Mentor and coach the leaders of tomorrow.

Bob Ferrari