Education, education, education
If you pick up any local newspaper in the UAE and turn to the appointments page you will typically be bombarded with reams of job advertisements for the role of ‘logistics manager’.
Certainly the logistics industry is growing at a torrid pace in the region but the skills market has failed to keep pace.
In order to plug the gap, several universities in Dubai have been offering MBAs and MScs in supply chain management. But as reported in last month’s issue of Logistics Middle East, demand for these courses has thus far failed to match supply.
This is certainly not because of lack of quality. The University of Wollongong in Dubai (UOWD) offers a reputed MSc in supply chain under the experienced guidance of Cedwyn Fernandes, one of the most well-known and well-respected figures in the regional industry.
This month it was announced that Maersk Logistics had established a relationship with UOWD in order to keep an eye on new talent emerging in the classroom. Bosses at the company had recently complained of a significant shortage of skills in the Middle East.
Even GAC, which has its own academy to train its staff, uses some of the facilities at UOWD.
Similarly, SP Jain Centre of Management offers a one-year intensive MBA in logistics and supply chain under the keen eye of Professor Rajiv Aserkar, another very well-networked mentor.
So why has uptake been low? It could be simply because the industry, growing rapidly but still in its infancy, is still regarded as a niche field. Many of those who are currently in senior positions in the region are those who have worked their way up from blue-collar positions by taking skills-based training, rather than those who have been parachuted in to middle management level after gaining dedicated management qualifications.
It is certainly true that the range of post-graduate qualifications on offer do exclude many of those at the lower rungs of logistics firms, as they often require degree level education.
In this vein, in-house, skills-based qualifications like those offered by GAC do play an important role in offering a ladder to promotion for lower level employees.
It has been speculated that the demand for university-level training will come from non-logistics companies looking to improve their in-house management of supply chain.
Because the knowledge of how supply chain management can radically transform business is new to many firms, they have not yet sent employees to these universities.
But the demand is coming and when it does there will be scant hope of getting a place on one of these courses. For those who are considering the idea, the best course of action is to jump in, while you still can.
Martin Croucher is the assistant editor of Logistics Middle East.