Logistics education in Canada has come a long way, but there’s still much room for improvement. Here’s an overview of various programs focusing on logistics at all levels of learning
In the minds of many educators, logistics has arrived. Academic institutions in Canada on all levels are developing new programs and revamping old ones to accommodate the business world’s new found interest in logistics and supply chain management.
In the past three years, logistics offerings at the community college level have blossomed with a number of new programs launched. At the university level logistics programs are few and far between, but in light of the increasing demand for well-trained supply chain professionals change is virtually assured. Even professional and executive development institutions are overhauling their curricula to conform to an ever-changing notion of logistics.
“There has finally been an understanding in the academic institutions that [logistics education] is very important,” says David Long, president of the Canadian Association of Logistics Management (CALM), which has done a great deal to promote logistics education over the past several years. “Certainly in the last 10 years there’s always been advisory assistance provided to these programs, but because there’s been a number of them pop up in the last few years we’ve really accelerated in the area.”
“One of our major mandates is to progress the academic level at the high school, college, and university level,” says Pamela Ruebusch, the co-chair of CALM’s education accreditation committee and TSI Group senior partner. “As a result a lot of these projects have spawned and are now becoming a reality.”
Ruebusch’s mandate as co-chair is establishing an approval program whereby academic institutions voluntarily meet a set of ideals established by CALM. The curriculum would be measured and accreditation would take place at the institutional level.
The accreditation framework would also create a template for institutions looking to establish new logistics programs.
And more programs are definitely needed. Both Long and Ruebusch agree that Canada’s logistics education system is way behind the model in the United States, where logistics education has been growing steadily since the late 1950s. Universities like Michigan State and Penn State have offered graduate and undergraduate degrees in logistics, transportation and supply chain management for decades. The most advanced of the American schools even grant Ph.D.s in these areas.
Patrick Cullen, recently retired chief operating officer for the Canadian Institute of Traffic and Transportation (CITT), says the problem we have in developing programs revolves around population distribution.
“The colleges and universities in Canada get excited if they get 25 to 30 people to register for a program,” says Cullen. “Well, programs don’t generate new material and new activity based on that kind of base. You need hundreds of people.”
But the Canadian system is developing. “The last two years have shown definite interest, particularly at the community college level,” says Long. “There’s an increasing understanding of the whole subject matter and its ability to provide jobs for graduates.”
Logistics education in Canada is growing fastest at the community college level where a wide variety of programs are offered in a number of different delivery formats. One of the more respected offerings is Etobicoke, Ont.-based Humber College’s one-year post-graduate program in supply chain management.
“For the most part [the students] have university degrees,” says Susan Krausz, Humber’s program coordinator. “They’re at a high level coming in and they have one year’s experience in the various functional areas of logistics.”
Now in its third year, the program focuses on the more analytical aspects of supply chain management and uses SAP’s supply chain and enterprise software to reinforce the concepts learned in class. “I feel that we’ve got a really good program underway here,” says Krausz. “But it’s only one program and we need about six or seven of them across the country.”
Humber is currently in the process of establishing an undergraduate program in logistics. The three-year program, which will be available to students coming out of high school, is slated to begin next fall. Along with a number of mandatory co-op work-terms, students will learn about transportation, purchasing and warehousing. Students in the undergraduate program will also be exposed to the SAP software lab.
Brampton, Ont.-based Sheridan College began its logistics offering in 1997 when it introduced its post-graduate Logistics Program. The one-year program consists of eight months of in-class work and a four-month internship at a local business. “Ninety to ninety-five per cent of the people find jobs after completing the one year course,” says Sheridan’s logistics program coordinator, David Pike.
However, not all colleges are travelling the same route of expansion. George Brown College recently announced the termination of its diploma program in Logistics Management.
“Management at the college decided to narrow the focus of the business school to jobs in the financial sector,” says Jane Rotering, a logistics instructor at the college. Despite the imminent demise of her program, Rotering remains upbeat about the future of logistics education in Canada.
“Logistics education is just starting to take off,” she says. “It’s growing by leaps and bounds at universities and colleges across Canada.”
The universities have been much slower to react to industry’s demand for highly trained logistics professionals. Most offerings are embedded in core business courses, allowing some exposure but little room for specialization.
The University of British Columbia is one of the exceptions. For more than 40 years UBC has graduated students with specialized training in transportation and logistics. The TLOG degree, however, is presented through the faculty of Commerce and Business Administration and is not a department in and of itself.
“We give them principles, analytical abilities and the ability to look at problems in a number of different ways,” says Garland Chow, associate professor of logistics and transportation at UBC.
Students look at the influence of transportation on markets in the global economy while also covering such functional areas as inventory, warehousing, and information management across diverse supply lines.
UBC also offers an MBA specialization in supply chain management. Students develop the tools needed to successfully manage the supply chain and its individual components, including forecasting, project management and business process re-engineering.
Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont. is another Canadian school breaking ground in the area of logistics education. Dr. Scott Carson, dean of Laurier’s School of Business and Economics recently embarked on a plan to create a university chair in the area of supply chain management.
“Because we’re such a large school, we have virtually all the elements of supply chain management across the range of disciplines,” says Dr. Carson. “What we haven’t had is a specific focus on supply chain management that would allow us to wrap these things together under a set of programs.”
Dr. Carson’s first obstacle will be fund-raising the $2.5 million needed to establish an endowed chair. The fund would allow the university to continuously maintain faculty, administrative support and research budgets regardless of government funding cutbacks.
“Our focus will be on logistics, e-commerce, strategy, finance and all things part and parcel to supply chain management,” says Dr. Carson. “And at some future stage we might even consider doing a Masters program, if the market is there.”
Dr. Carson is working closely with CALM and the accreditation committees to make sure industry goals are being met. “If you get a player like us moving into this area aggressively, others begin to see it as viable and pretty soon new programs elsewhere in Can
ada begin springing up,” says Dr. Carson. “The industry overall will benefit, but you need someone to get in first and make it happen.”
McGill University in Montreal offers a certificate program in transportation management, but there are no plans to make the 30-credit offering into a degree program. Students, who attend the program part-time, take a series of courses ranging from transportation regulation to economics.
PROFESSIONAL DESIGNATIONS AND DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMS
In the late 1950s the Canadian Institute of Traffic and Transportation was the pillar of logistics education in Canada. For a number of years the CITT’s certification courses were the only industry recognized programs, and to this day they remain popular amongst logistics and transportation professionals.
“The disciplines of transportation and distribution, in and of themselves, haven’t changed dramatically,” says Patrick Cullen, the institute’s recently retired chief operating officer. “What has changed is that we now have a business science that we call logistics, which brings together all of the functions that used to operate independently from one another.”
CITT’s 10-course program is generally delivered by distance education, although a number of community colleges and universities like Sheridan, UBC and McGill offer classes that count towards the CITT designation.
The Canadian Professional Logistics Institute has offered its P.Log certification since 1994. And in that five years more than 700 members have been certified under the designation.
“In 2000 we’re going to roll out a new certification process that’s going to be based on the feedback we’ve received,” says Karyn Ferguson, the Logistics Institute’s program director. The new program will revolve around four modules, which include logistics networks, customer focused diagnostics, team dynamics and professional ethics.
“What our certification program centres around is acknowledging and recognizing practitioners in the industry,” says Ferguson.
A number of other professional organizations have also developed their own programs that deal to some extent with logistics and supply chain management. The Purchasing Management Association of Canada and the Canadian Society of Customs Brokers are two such institutions. Their offerings are generally specific to the purchasing and custom broker professions, but they too have been forced to redefine the meaning of logistics on a more cross-functional basis.
“I think people are beginning to realize just how much more attention needed to be paid to the people running their logistics and supply chain operations,” says Ferguson. “They’ve realized that you can have all the sales and marketing in the world, but if you can’t make it happen then it’s a lot tougher to remain competitive.”