School’s in Session: Learning (and Teaching) the Automotive Supply Chain Ropes

School’s in Session: Learning (and Teaching) the Automotive Supply Chain Ropes

With the supply chain industry in the headlines for all the wrong reasons lately, it might make the idea of choosing it as a career path seem counterintuitive for college students. However, the field still presents excellent opportunities for young professionals and recent graduates. 

One of the primary challenges is that most students are unaware that majoring in supply chain management is even an option. Lori Sisk, automotive supply chain veteran and Assistant Professor at Wayne State University’s Global Supply Chain Management program, is determined to raise awareness and attract young talent. She says it’s essential to “get the word out” to high school and community college students that a program like hers exists — in the Motor City no less.

Themes discussed in this episode: 

  • The importance of rotational programs to help students understand the many different areas within supply chain
  • The premium that today’s employers put on understanding data analytics and applying that knowledge to decision-making
  • The complementary relationship between industry and academia in professional development programs like the one Lori helped develop at the Automotive Industry Action Group (AIAG)
  • The increasing desire for flexibility in the workplace among supply chain students and recent graduates
  • How students tend to defy their own expectations when provided with the right learning and work environments

 At the heart of The Prophets’ vision are “The 24 Essential Supply Chain Processes.” What are they? Find out, and see the future yourself. Click here

Featured on This Episode: 

Name: Lori Sisk

Title: Assistant Professor, Wayne State University’s Mike Ilitch School of Business; Owner, Accelerate to Success, LLC

About: Lori is an Assistant Professor at Wayne State University’s Mike Ilitch School of Business in Detroit. She teaches in its Global Supply Chain Management program.

Connect: LinkedIn 

Episode Highlights

Timestamp inflection points from the show

[1:50] Multiple vantage points: Two and a half decades of experience across the automotive industry, including roles on the OEM and Tier One side and as a consultant, inform Lori’s work at Wayne State University, where she teaches in its Global Supply Chain Management program.    

[3:42] Raising awareness: The biggest challenge Lori and her Wayne State colleagues face is letting students know the school offers a supply chain major and that supply chain is its own distinct career path. Being in Detroit and being passionate industry veterans and educators helps the recruiting effort. 

[5:05] A real-world education: Rotational programs with employers expose Lori’s students to supply chain niches that range from purchasing to logistics to materials management to production planning and give them a practical understanding of each part of the supply chain. 

[6:04] Hot spots: The supply chain areas Lori’s students tend to gravitate towards are purchasing, logistics and consulting.

[7:40] New skills for a changing world: Companies want graduates to have a firm understanding of data analytics and know how to apply them to decision-making. It has become a focus at Wayne State. 

[8:29] Practical experience: As part of a required quality class, students participate in case studies created by industry professionals who are also Wayne State supply chain alumni. These former students come in and answer students’ questions. Top student teams get to present to executives at their companies. 

[11:58] Learning from the pros: Industry mentors (Terry Onica is one) are a key part of Wayne State’s supply chain program. Peer-to-peer mentoring is instrumental as well, especially for younger, newer students. 

[13:03] Key criteria: Industry recruiters want current and future generations of students to have internship experience, communication skills, data analytics understanding and technology skills as well as the ability to communicate across an organization when they graduate.

[14:40] Continuing education: Active in the AIAG, Lori helped it develop a rigorous automotive certificate program that Lori says covers “every facet of supply chain in 23 weeks.”  

[16:25] Advanced studies: Wayne State offers a unique master’s program in automotive supply chain in addition to its undergraduate program. 

[17:20] The one thing: Lori would tell supply chain leaders that students tend to achieve more than they realize they’re capable of, but this requires the opportunity to keep learning. To facilitate this, supply chain leaders need to provide a constantly improving environment that encourages continuous learning.

Top quotes

[2:42] “The students really give me that extra energy every day that I need to be able to keep going and to continue my passion not only of supply chain, but of teaching.”

[5:21] “[Students] also want a lot of flexibility. As the world and the professional world has gotten used to being online, so have the students. They've gotten used to online classes, but I do believe that they are mostly interested in a hybrid format, both in classes and in the workforce. I think that will continue.” 

[7:01] “Anytime [students] can get some of these rotational programs is really key so they can understand where they want to land.”

[7:43] “We hear over and over again that companies want the students to understand analytics and [how to] pull that up to an executive format and decision-making processes.” 

[13:33] The industry is looking to this next group to make these processes we have less tedious by incorporating more technology. The data analytics and the technology is really key and then being able to communicate. Communication is key not only within departments, but across departments, to executives, to all levels within the organization, so that their voices can be heard and understood, and [so] they are able to help improve the organization and the supply chain processes and technology.” 


[17:20] “I would say to [auto supply chain leaders]: keep improving, keep learning. Give these young students a chance. They can achieve a lot more than what they even know they can do, so give them the opportunity and see where they can go.”


Delivering on the Promise of Delivery: Automotive Sustainability and Profitability

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White Paper for Leveraging Risk Management in Automotive

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Operational Restart Readiness

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The 24 Essential Supply Chain

Download here


Keep in touch with Auto Supply Chain Prophet's co-hosts Terry Onica and Jan Griffiths on LinkedIn.


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