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John Ozment, holder of the Oren Harris Chair of Transportation at the University of Arkansas, issues the call for more full-scale logistics programs at the nation's universities.
At first glance, there would appear to be plenty of logistics and supply-chain programs at the nation's colleges and universities. There are some 460 accredited programs, with majors offered in approximately 60 schools. But opportunities to study the specific discipline of logistics are not so plentiful, says Ozment.
"There are not enough [logistics programs] to meet the needs of the business community today," he says. "Not even close." Even major programs are small by the standards of their schools, and are mostly housed within other disciplines. At the University of Arkansas, logistics resides within the marketing department.
Ozment has joined with faculty from across the country to address the issue of why logistics isn't a core requirement at many schools. One problem, he says, is that the topic wasn't recognized as a discrete area for study until relatively recently. The first logistics textbook was authored by Don Bowersox of Michigan State in 1961, but the field has become much more complex since then, marked by the rapid growth of information systems. Even today, Ozment says, "It's more of a hidden discipline."
There's plenty of demand for logistics talent in the world of business, less so at the university level. For the most part, incoming students don't view logistics as a career option. In high school, they will likely have taken courses in marketing, finance and accounting, but won't have access to a class in logistics. Those who end up practicing it often transfer from other functions within their companies. As a result, universities are finding it difficult to obtain the resources necessary for full-fledged programs. Ozment says industry needs to get involved in actively funding and supporting logistics curricula.
A degree in supply-chain management doesn't necessarily prepare students for careers in logistics. They need training on how to make critical decisions about the tradeoffs between transportation, inventory and service levels. "It makes it difficult for someone to go in, start a career and be successful if they don't understand those [elements]," Ozment says.
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