If you want to earn a degree from the No. 3-ranked supply chain management program in North America, as judged by Gartner, Inc., then you must complete an internship. It’s as simple as that.
Since the inception of the supply chain management program's required internship in 2013, more than 840 Auburn supply chain management majors have gained experience at nearly 300 unique firms, including AAA Cooper, Georgia- Pacific, Dollar General, P&S Transportation, DHL, Keyston Bros. and Buffalo Rock.
Currently, 95 percent of the Harbert College’s Supply Chain Management majors gain at least 300 hours of experience with an organization through internships that must meet rigorous standards. That practical experience translates into job offers from Fortune 500 companies, as well as start-ups at an average reported starting salary of $55,646 for May and August supply chain management graduates.
The other 5 percent of graduates - who are usually heading into full time military roles upon graduation - have completed a professional experience requirement designed to help them apply supply chain concepts within their chosen branch of the military through specific applied projects. One student, a member of the National Guard, used the inventory analysis skills he learned in the classroom to record all of the munitions equipment used by his unit.
No wonder Gartner ranked Harbert College’s Supply Chain Management program No. 3 nationally – jumping 14 spots from its previous standing of No. 17 -- when the prestigious, biennial rankings were released in June.
The program vaulted past a number of longtime heavyweights, including Michigan State and Tennessee, largely on the strength of its industry engagement, the internship requirement, and the breadth of curriculum. The Harbert College topped Gartner's "program scope" category and placed third in the "industry value leaders" category, which was influenced, in part, by a survey of industry professionals.
Gartner Research VP Dana Stiffler identified Harbert as "the upstart in our rankings" based on its ability to adjust curriculum to meet ongoing industry need and to ensure students receive meaningful experience before graduation.
These internships aren’t just any old internships where students are making copies or coffee for supervisors, either. Just ask Jared Gordon (above), a junior studying supply chain management, who had the opportunity to intern with Georgia-Pacific at its Green Bay, Wisconsin, facility this summer. His responsibilities included managing supply alerts for food wraps, bags and dispensers for customer services to utilize, and worked with a variety of software platforms to help build truckloads for deployment.
“Even though the work I do is ground-level in the supply chain, I have access to high level supply chain managers and category leaders that can talk with me anything I like,” he said. “This allows me to understand how the work I do fits into the supply chain as a whole and gives me an understanding of the scope of Georgia-Pacific’s supply chain operations.”
There are colleges that say they require internships, but what is unique about Harbert College’s supply chain professional experience program is the internships are vetted. “Every single internship that comes across my desk is reviewed. I examine the job description to determine if it meets the qualifications to earn credit within the AU supply chain curriculum,” said Marcia Gibson, Supply Chain Management Professional Experience Program Coordinator. “I look for experiences that offer students the opportunity to add valuable tools to their tool belt.”
David Anderson, a senior in supply chain management, praised the hands-on experience he received interning this summer at Buffalo Rock (the largest Pepsi distributor in the southeast). “My supervisor wanted us to figure it out ourselves,” he said. “This helped me develop skills in growth and execution. I also enjoyed having the opportunity of sitting in professional meetings and learning how tasks are executed effectively.”
Gibson makes it a point that Harbert students will return from internships at reputable, nationwide companies with hands-on experience that can elevate them toward successful careers. “What they (firms who hire Auburn supply chain students) are getting is a person with relevant and related experience to the industry who can walk in on day one and perform operational activities that are necessary,” she added.
“We believe it is essential that our supply chain graduates understand the exceptional challenges that lie ahead of them should they choose a career in this industry. The internship provides every student with the opportunity to gain boots-on-the-ground experience. It is very difficult to appreciate the expectations of running a supply chain operation if you have never been inside of a distribution center, seen the inside of a 40 foot long container, visited a port or railyard, or experienced a manufacturing site first-hand. At Auburn, we provide opportunities for students to learn about all of these areas – which leads to a better understanding of how a successful business actually works.”