DHL issued a new white paper on the supply chain talent shortage in the automotive sector – what’s causing it, how it impacts the industry, and what solutions are available to ease the crisis. According to the paper, currently for every graduate with supply chain skills, there are six positions waiting to be filled. The shortage, which is expected to worsen in the next five years, poses a real threat to the automotive industry’s future, the paper contends. The report is based on research by Lisa Harrington, President of the lharrington group LLC and Senior Research Fellow at the Supply Chain Management Center, Robert H. Smith School of Business, University of Maryland. It provides five alternatives that supply chain executives – and their companies – can employ to address this resource problem: industry collaboration, expanded in-house education options, job rotation programs, formalized knowledge transfer, and employer-of-choice focus.

“For the automotive industry, the supply chain talent crisis is a house of cards ready to collapse,” cautions Frank Vorrath, Vice-President, Global Sector Head Automotive, DHL Global Forwarding. “Solving it requires planning for the long term and building a talent investment strategy into the corporate culture.”

While many factors contribute to the global supply chain talent gap, the paper highlights five in particular as fueling what some experts are calling the supply chain talent “perfect storm.” In addition to the changing labour market and a growing demographic gap, the academic landscape focused on supply chain management keeps shrinking. Furthermore, particularly students interested in the automotive sector consider a career in supply chain rather as a fallback option. Given this environment, companies operating in the automotive sector should look into adopting new strategies to recruit talent.

“The supply chain talent crisis is a serious issue for the automotive industry, particularly in emerging markets where growth rates remain strong,” states Lisa Harrington. “Many companies are already struggling with lack of infrastructure and skilled workforce in these countries, and the simultaneously increasing need for supply chain expertise further exacerbates these issues. Solving the talent shortage calls for new thinking, new approaches, and collaboration on an industry-wide scale.”

To mitigate the supply chain talent shortage, it is necessary that leaders in the automotive sector intensify their collaboration with universities to create supply chain education programs specifically for the automotive sector, the white paper reports. More companies should consider developing their own education programs and expanding their in-house and external education options, as well as utilizing formal job rotation programs as a means of growing and enriching young talent. Additionally, these same leaders could tap their soon-to-retire professionals to serve as educators and mentors – to transfer their specialist knowledge to the next generation of supply chain professionals. Finally, companies are to take steps to become “employers of choice,” making themselves more attractive to supply chain talent at all levels by providing robust career opportunities and benefits.

To address the supply chain talent gap, DHL and the German logistics industry association BVL have started in 2013 an initiative called CALA 4.0 (Corporate Automotive Logistics Academy 4.0). The global educational program is designed specifically for professionals working in the automotive supply chain sphere. Its objective is to provide a global qualification program for automotive logistics professionals of the future. Structured in eight modules focused on different topics, CALA 4.0 offers a unique concept in cooperative, interactive knowledge creation as well as knowledge transfer and management for all areas and levels of global automotive logistics. After the first two modules have been successfully launched in Germany, DHL Global Forwarding will expand the program and offer it globally, with the third module to take place in Brazil this May.

To learn more about the crisis and its solutions, download the white paper Solving the talent crisis: Five alternatives every supply chain executive must consider at