The Supplychainforesight2014 Survey ranked ‘availability of supply chain skills’ as one of the top five key supply chain and logistics constraints over the next 5 – 10 years¹, highlighting concerns over a growing shortage of skilled staff. Supply chain professionals who actively align their skill sets with demand will have the pick of challenging and rewarding careers over the next decade, Tech-Pro tells SmartProcurement.

As the ‘logistics and supply chain sector underpins the entire global economy’², a shortage of suitably qualified, skilled and experienced supply chain professionals will affect economic growth. And, as supply chain complexity increases, so too does the demand for more specific and specialised skills, which are harder to produce.

The mismatch between skills needed and produced is particularly high in South Africa. The World Economic Forum ranks South Africa’s ‘inadequately educated workforce’ as a leading ‘most problematic factor for doing business’ – the outcome of very low rankings in ‘Quality of Primary Education’ (133rd out of 144 economies) and ‘Quality of Maths and Science Education’ (144th).³

Public sector response to the skills shortage

In 2011, the government published the National Skills Development Strategy III (NSDS III), a blueprint for addressing South Africa’s skills shortages. The aim of the strategy is to increase the number of appropriately skilled people, with priority skills, in order to meet demand and achieve accelerated economic growth targets.4

Goals include:

• identifying and quantifying shortages to enable better skills planning;
• an increased focus on ‘occupational training’, using FET/Practical colleges, to ensure that graduates are more ‘work-ready’;
• encouraging employers to improve workplace-based training; and
• improving career and vocational guidance in priority skill areas.4

In May 2014, as one of the steps in implementing the NSDS III, the government released a ‘National Scarce Skills List’ for comment. The list, which was compiled in consultation with the public, private and academic sectors, includes supply chain roles like ‘Retail Buyer’ (in 59th place), ‘Supply and Distribution Manager’ (62nd) and ‘Logistics’ (90th) among the ‘top 100 occupations in demand’.5

Private sector input

According to research conducted by University of Johannesburg researchers at the SAPICS Conferences in 2011 and 2012, South Africa’s has many difficult-to-fill supply chain positions across operational, tactical and strategic areas, including:6

• Managers – at all levels, including distribution, inventory, logistics, procurement, project, supply chain, transport and warehouse managers.
• Planners, including demand, inventory and production planners.
• Supply chain strategists
• Business analysts
• Buyers
• Procurement staff
• Logistics staff
• IT supply chain specialist

“In 2014, we are seeing strong demand for Commodity Managers and Strategic Sourcing Specialists”, says Zachariah Mogotsi of specialist SCM recruiter, Tech-Pro. “The rise in demand is related to the fact that most businesses are paying more attention to optimising the procurement value chain and creating cross-functional teams that can assist in driving efficient spend management. People who have a track record in negotiating consolidated contracts, reducing total cost of ownership and forming strategic partnerships with suppliers, are in demand.”

What challenges does your company face as a result of skills shortages? Which supply chain jobs does your company find ‘difficult to fill’? Do you offer workplace-based training? If so, does it help to create the ‘in demand’ skills you need?

1: 2014 Supplychainforesight, Barloworld
2: ‘Outlook on the Logistics & Supply Chain Industry 2012, World Economic Forum
3: ‘Global Competitiveness Report 2014-2015’, World Economic Forum
4: ‘National Skills Development Strategy III’, Issued by the Department of Higher Education and Training, 2011
5: ‘Call for Comments on the National Scarce Skills List: Top 100 Occupations in Demand’, Published in the Government Gazette (Notice 380 of 2014) for the Department of Higher Education and Training, May 2014
6: ‘An Update of the Supply Chain Skills Gap Survey in South Africa’, Gert Heyns and Rose Luke for the Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies (Africa), University of Johannesburg