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Smeal Program Improves Supply Chain Education at Local High School

Thanks to help from Bob Novack, associate professor of supply chain and information systems at the Penn State Smeal College of Business, the State College Area High School in State College, Pa., offers a series of supply chain courses to introduce high school students to the profession.
March 1, 2013

Thanks to help from Bob Novack, associate professor of supply chain and information systems at the Penn State Smeal College of Business, the State College Area High School in State College, Pa., offers a series of supply chain courses to introduce high school students to the profession.

The program began several years ago. “Supply chain was one of the fastest growing careers in Pennsylvania, and State High is one of the single highest suppliers of students to Smeal,” said Novack.

But, he said, the demand was growing faster than the supply of professionals, partly because of a lack of familiarity with the industry.

“High school students don’t generally understand supply chain,” Novack said. “Often, even our Smeal students don’t.”

So in a bid to get more high school students thinking about supply chain as a career path, Novack pitched a series of supply chain courses to be taught at the high school level.

Developing and teaching the courses fell to State High teacher Sarah Griffith, who said that, at first, she thought supply chain would be a tough sell to high schoolers. But she soon found that once they learned a little bit about the opportunities a career in supply chain could offer, they got really excited.

“The students are surprised by how much it relates to their lives,” said Griffith.

One example is Anthony Dong, a State High graduate who always thought he wanted to go into marketing. He was taking the marketing courses offered at the high school when his adviser told him about the fast-growing field of supply chain.

“I knew a little bit about logistics,” said Dong, “but I hadn’t heard the term ‘supply chain’ and all it implied.” So he joined the inaugural supply chain course at State High in his senior year.

Dong is now a sophomore at Smeal majoring in Supply Chain.

“I liked the analysis of making things efficient,” he said, “and there are so many opportunities.  There’s just a lot you can do with this degree.”

Novack and his colleagues at Smeal work closely with State High to offer students opportunities to learn more about the profession and the major. The students take field trips to Smeal, attend Careers in Supply Chain night, and visit the supply chain career fair in the fall.

“There are companies out there offering internships to some seniors for the summer before their first year of college,” said Novack, representing the great demand for people in supply chain.

Now that the program has been up and running for several years, Griffith says that former students are its best salespeople. And, like Anthony Dong, the courses are encouraging some students to commit to supply chain as a career.

“This is a great pipeline for students to come into Smeal and into supply chain,” said Novack.

The Supply Chain program at Smeal is ranked number one by Gartner Inc.’s Ranking of U.S. Supply Chain Education Providers at both the graduate and undergraduate levels.

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