If the Covid pandemic has done one thing positive, it has been to highlight the absolute necessity of having professionals man the global supply chains not only for medical goods but for everything that society uses. It has also served to highlight the shortage of skills in this vital arena.
With this in mind, SAPICS (The Professional Body for Supply Chain Management) recently hosted the 7th annual Young Professional and Student Conference as an effort to build and support a pipeline of talent in the vital supply chain management profession and to promote awareness of supply chain management as an exciting and dynamic career for students and new graduates,
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this was a virtual event but it went off well with the youth commending the outstanding programme and compelling speakers .
“It was an amazing experience and if it was held monthly, I would be the first to register,” says Kutupi Mogashoa from Tshwane University of Technology. Kamogelo Berend, an honours student at Stellenbosch University, says he enjoyed networking with fellow supply chain management professionals.
In her opening address, SAPICS president MJ Schoemaker recognised the challenges that supply chain professionals have faced during the COVID-19 crisis. “It is important for all of us to stick together, even if we are on a virtual platform,” she said, noting that for the youth, many of whom have been studying on-line at home, things have been especially difficult. She urged anyone needing emotional support to not hesitate in getting it. “Mental health should not be stigmatised, and it should never be ignored,” she told the young delegates.
With supply chain management thrust into the spotlight, and the agility and transparency of supply chains becoming more critical, Schoemaker said that SAPICS strives to help supply chain professionals tackle current and future challenges. Through its Youth Programme, which includes the annual Young Professional and Student Conference, SAPICS is ensuring that graduates and young professionals can access the skills, resources and experience they need to capitalise on opportunities in the supply chain management profession and contribute to strong, resilient supply chains that are catalysts for economic growth and transformation.
Schoemaker discussed the importance of the mentorship aspect of the youth programme and urged young delegates at the conference to get involved. “A mentor can guide you, ask you challenging questions to make you think and help you to figure out where you need to be and how to find your way as you navigate your career.” SAPICS’s mentorship initiative connects young professionals with experienced mentors from the SAPICS community.
The keynote speaker, Zinola Moodley, echoed Schoemaker’s recommendations on mentorship. Moodley, who is originally from South Africa, is the Demand Planning Capability Lead at Mondelēz International in Singapore.
In her presentation, she offered the young delegates advice on making holistic career and life choices and praised her own mentor. “My mentor has been a huge help to me and a huge support for me in my career journey,” she said, and encouraged attendees to join the SAPICS Mentorship Programme and become a member of SAPICS as she herself did at the outset of her career.
Moodley advised the young professionals to take a considered, measured approach in order to find career satisfaction. “It can be easy to jump from job to job and from company to company looking for the next best role. It can be easy to follow the money and the titles. It might move you along the corporate ladder but if you want to build a meaningful career, you should look for the right job, rather than just a pay cheque,” she stressed.
The broad range of topics on the conference’s programme included supply chain digitalisation, supply chain planning, sustainable supply chains, data, analytics and artificial intelligence. Important general topics like gender consciousness, successful CVs and money management were also covered.
“There is growing recognition of the importance of both technical and ‘soft’ skills in supply chain managers,” according to Tonya Lamb, SAPICS business development executive. In a recent survey, high-level executives ranked the most important skills for young professionals to have in supply chain jobs. Analytical skills were one of the top three must-have skills cited by 94% of respondents. People skills followed with 61% of the vote, while communication skills were rated as very important by 50% of respondents. Only 11% of the executives surveyed said that having a degree in supply chain management was a top qualifier,” Lamb said.
Many Universities and Higher Education Training Institutions encouraged students to attend the 2021 SAPICS Young Professional and Student Conference and it was a significant opportunity due to the on-line nature of the event for these young future professionals to network with people from other countries in Africa and around the world.
“For young professionals starting their careers, it is especially important to be a member of a professional organisation like SAPICS,” comments Lamb. “When a graduate first starts out in the field, belonging to a professional organisation helps to establish legitimacy. It provides the young professional with access to a network of seasoned industry professionals from diverse backgrounds, including potential mentors.”
This was highlighted by Garth Mhlangu from BMW who maintains that his initial application to BMW was given extra attention because he was a member of SAPICS. The 2021 SAPICS Young Professional and Student Conference was sponsored by Accenture, OpenText, Imperial, Eazi Access and SAS.
To find out more about SAPICS’s Youth Programme and student membership, visit the SAPICS website: www.sapics.org