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Attracting Future Workforces

  • Jennifer Proctor
May/June 2017

This department focuses on the future of supply chain and APICS’s use of futurecasting to develop an ongoing strategic framework, called The Rise. By studying these factors, industry professionals begin to see where the workforce intersects with supply chain’s future. Unquestionably, meeting the needs of both the young and the elderly as well as women—as both professionals and consumers—will be crucial.

The rise of the young and elderly

Pew Research Center reports that US millennials have surpassed US baby boomers as the largest living generation, in part because of young immigrants. These trends are evident internationally as well. Per the Population Reference Bureau’s “2016 World Population Data Sheet,” more than 25 percent of the globe’s population is less than 15 years old. This figure is 41 percent for less-developed countries and 16 percent for more-developed ones. Young people present huge market potential and stand poised to transform businesses from the inside with new ideas about work and how to get it done.

Meanwhile, people are living longer. The United Nations (UN) report “World Population Aging 2015” says almost every country is experiencing growth in the number and proportion of its older people, and we must prepare. The report states,“The increasing share of older persons in the population … is poised to become one of the most significant social transformations of the 21st century, with implications for nearly all sectors of society, including labor and financial markets; the demand for goods and services, such as housing, transportation, and social protection; as well as family structures and intergenerational ties.”

These trends present both opportunities and challenges for supply chains. For example, there is significant potential to meet this growing demand for products and services; labor-intensive manufacturing processes will continue to be located in developing countries that are home to ample, working-age labor; and global trade likely will continue to expand, supported by the need for more sophisticated market intelligence about never-before-served customers.

The rise of women in global society

Whether young, old, or in between, women everywhere are making important decisions and career moves every day. There now are more women in the global workforce than ever before, which also means more buying power via their paychecks. Services firm EY reports that women make up more than half of the population, and, within the next decade, their impact will be at least as significant as that of China’s and India’s 1-billion-plus populations.

The influence women will have on manufacturing and supply chain presents a challenge to a field that traditionally has been dominated by men. Product innovation, design, and delivery must consider women’s unique perspectives and needs. Of course, more female employees in organizations can help address that challenge. Recruiting women is vital for this reason and for ensuring that manufacturers have the talent required to sustain and grow economies.

A 2015 study cosponsored by the APICS Supply Chain Council and The Manufacturing Institute found that, although women make up about 47 percent of the US labor force, they represent only 27 percent of the manufacturing workforce. Of the industries compared in the study, manufacturing ranked five out of seven by all surveyed women and last among young women. The combination of an outdated representation of manufacturing and supply chain workplaces, pay inequity, and the perceived lack of advancement opportunities negatively influence the recruitment of women and drive out those already employed.

To build a dynamic supply chain workforce, APICS must reach these people. “It’s not just about getting warm bodies to fill positions; it’s about finding competent individuals,” says APICS CEO Abe Eshkenazi, CSCP, CPA, CAE. He emphasizes that APICS is shifting the way it approaches education to more closely consider these factors of The Rise. Eshkenazi urges employers to think about hiring and talent development differently. “Yesterday’s workforce won’t lead you into tomorrow,” he says, adding that businesses and organizations such as APICS must educate young people and women about the profession and its career potential. In addition, current professionals must hire differently to ensure an adequate supply chain talent pipeline.

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Jennifer Proctor is editor in chief of APICS magazine. She may be contacted at

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  1. Rhonda July 25, 2018, 12:27 PM
    Wonderful Article!   Thanks for the information and outlook on things hoping to come.!

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