Competition based on business simulation game called ‘The Fresh Connection’
One of many outreach initiatives by logistics industry to attract and retain talent
IN a bid to attract young blood into the ranks of Singapore’s logistics industry, Supply Chain Asia (SCA) has launched a new initiative with the support of the country’s Economic Development Board (EDB) and Workforce Development Agency (WDA).
SCA is a non-profit professional body that aims to bring professionals from within the logistics and supply chain industries together to share their knowledge and learnings, and to also create opportunities for collaborations.
Targeted at tertiary students from local polytechnics and universities, as well as young professionals, the new initiative is a competition centred on a web-based business simulation game called ‘The Fresh Connection.’
Established in 2008 by Netherlands-based Involvation Interactive BV, The Fresh Connection is a cross-functional business simulation that claims to deliver the most comprehensive value chain learning experience. Participants benefit by gaining real-time, real-life experience, and enhanced learning.
SCA president and founder Paul Lim told a media briefing in Singapore said that his discovery of the game was a purely accidental one and the experience prompted the creation of the Supply Chain Competition via an exclusive licensing arrangement with Involvation Interactive.
In the competition, participants – in teams of four – will have to make strategic decisions in managing a company that manufactures fruit juices.
They will take on the functional roles of sales, purchasing, supply chain and operations – tasked with the responsibility of picking the right suppliers, deciding warehouse capacity, making investment decisions, managing inventory and forecasting demand.
The preliminary rounds of the competition will take place on Oct 25, with 18 teams participating, four of which will be corporate teams and the rest students. The top eight teams will then be shortlisted to enter the finals, which will be held on Jan 15 2015.
“By organising activities such as the Supply Chain Competition, we can stimulate and promote greater awareness and interest among the young to build solid careers in the supply chain management industry,” said Lim.
“Through this competition, students can discover how supply chains work as they confront various real-life, real-time dilemmas and learning. They can also get the feel of managing inventory, and developing operations and supplier management skills,” he added.
More than just moving boxes
The competition is one of many outreach initiatives currently being executed by the logistics industry to attract and retain talent.
It follows moves made by the Singapore Government in January with the establishment of a committee for the Applied Study in Polytechnics and Institute of Technical Education (ITE) Review (ASPIRE).
The committee is tasked with looking into providing work-relevant training for students, improving educational and career guidance, and pursuing industrial research, innovation and enterprise activities.
A list of recommendations by the committee were accepted by the Government in August. One such recommendation was to improve education and career guidance choices with the introduction of more place-and-train programmes.
The SCA currently offers a Supply Chain Operations Traineeship Programme, a company-sponsored apprenticeship that places a trainee to work full-time with the organisation.
Asked how dire the challenge of attracting young and bright talent into the logistics industry was, Lee Eng Keat, director of Natural Resources and Logistics at EDB, said that it was no more serious than the challenges facing the general workforce.
“We’re all in the same boat where we need to compete for the best talent. One of the concerns now is this mismatch in terms of roles and responsibilities between graduates and industry.
“The expectation from young graduates is fairly high but in return, industry expects some existing experience in the field. It’s not a knowledge gap as it is a practical experience gap,” he said.
SCA’s Lim said that one challenge is the perception of a career in logistics as being “less glamorous” compared with law, banking or medicine.
“We’re not able to absorb new talent because we are still not the first-choice industry for many graduates, which is a disappointing state considering just how much logistics as an industry has evolved – it’s not just about moving boxes anymore.
“In fact, when I go and talk to students at universities, many have no idea how lucrative a career it can be when I tell them senior executives can make up to S$500,000 a year. But of course, you still need to build up that five to 10 years of experience and prove yourself,” he added.
Asked about whether the dearth of interest from local talent has resulted in companies looking outside the country to plug the gaps, EDB’s Lee said that there has been a “clamour for foreign worker” in the past.
“However, we are prompting companies to think about productivity measures instead, to adopt lean processes and investment into automation which is the preferred approach. Bringing in foreign workers is just the easy way out,” he added.
The need to attract more local graduates into the logistics industry is an important one, with 192,600 logistics professionals accounting for 9% of Singapore’s total workforce. Lee said that the industry contributes about 7% of the country’s total gross domestic product (GDP).
SCA is hoping that via initiatives like the Supply Chain Competition, young workers will get a realistic glimpse into what working in the industry would be like and find it appealing due to its depth, complexity and use of new skillsets such as big data analytics.
Lim hinted that if this year’s competition goes well, moves could be made to participate in the global The Fresh Connection challenge hosted by Involvation Interactive every year.
“The dream is to build the best Singapore team, to go and show them what we can do,” he said.
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