Are Universities Training Students for Obsolete Jobs? And Where Does Supply Chain Fit in?

September 3, 2015


For a few years, economists and technology analysts have been closely watching the increasing automation of the workforce. Analysts have also long-discussed how automated manufacturing has replaced middle-class domestic manufacturing jobs. In recent months, there’s been increased buzz over Google and Uber’s efforts to develop self-driving cars, as well as talk of self-checkout McDonald’s counters. These and other technologies have led analysts and journalists to clamor over predictions that robots will gradually replace truck drivers, retail staff, and other service industry jobs.

And now, there are increasing predictions by academics and pundits that, in the coming decades, automation will threaten white-collar professions as well. There’s a proliferation of articles on business websites talking about how financial reporters, legal associates, financial analysts, and online marketers are already under threat of automation, with other, more skill-intensive white collar professions to follow. Scientific American recently reported on a University of Oxford study that estimated that 702 occupations, or a staggering 47% of U.S. workers’ jobs, will be threatened by automation.

Economists seem divided about whether existing metrics are sophisticated enough to properly measure the link between technology and job loss. However, there seems to be wide agreement that the impact of automation on a number of fields might be much larger, and arrive much faster, than anticipated. While people have worried for centuries about technology eliminating jobs, and have often underestimated the role of innovation in creating new careers, it’s clear that immense change in the job market is on the horizon.

Last week, we read a report that stopped us in our tracks: an Australian non-profit studying education and career prospects for young people in Australia reported that nearly 60% of Australian university students are studying for “dying” careers – or jobs that will be automated during those students’ lifetimes.


As a recruitment agency specializing in a very specific (and often under-reported) area of the job market (Supply Chain Management), we’re always interested in news about the next generation’s talent picture. To us, it’s staggering to read that a high percentage of students are studying for careers that will be no longer performed by humans in the near future. Especially given the fact that universities and the Supply Chain profession aren’t doing quite enough to promote Supply Chain as a career to young people – a career that, for the most part, is well-suited to thrive in the post-automation workforce.

It’s true that more transactional Supply Chain related roles (such as Procurement Clerks and Warehouse personnel) are under threat of automation. But strategic, communications and strategy-focused roles are only projected to grow in the coming years as the world continues to globalize.

The report out of Australia identified three key changing economic factors that will impact today’s students in the future: automation, globalisation, and collaboration.  A keen understanding of the latter two factors also happens to be what separates the highest-potential junior Supply Chain professionals. As Supply Chain rises in organizational importance and increasingly drives business decisions, the ability to collaborate with internal and external partners, as well as the ability to understand the fast-changing nature of global commerce, is becoming more and more crucial.

Which is maybe why the CSCSC is projecting that the sector will add 15,000 jobs a year in Canada going forward, with most of the growth occurring at manager and executive-level jobs. As a recent SCMA article put it, “The best Supply Chain Management jobs don’t even exist yet.”

That’s our take. But what’s your perspective? Where do Supply Chain Professionals stand in the race towards automation? Let us know in the comments! logo_icon

P.S.: NPR’s Planet Money put together a handy tool that allows you to punch in a career and see what percentage chance it has of being automated. It’s worth checking out. 


1 Comment

  1. Paul Beekman

    I believe they have, in fact I think it goes far deeper then one expects….
    Traditionally, students graduating from public school and are attending high school for the very first time, have limited choices in their career field, I chose to go to a vocational high school where I learned a trade yes a trade, a trade I was employed for 18yrs.
    Perhaps the government should take a look at the overall educational picture – find the flaws – correct the flaws before it’s too late to make any steps forward, that said yes Supply Chain should be taught at the High School level

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