Monday, May 24, 2021

CVTC Graduating First Class of Supply Chain Students

Two-year-old program focuses on an essential area of business operations

Article Photo - CVTC Graduating First Class of Supply Chain Students

Melissa Miller, a graduate of CVTC’s Supply Chain Management program, sites at her desk at Valley Companies, a supply chain and logistics-oriented trucking company.


Justin Baker, Chippewa Valley Technical College’s Supply Chain Management instructor and program director, realizes many people have little idea what the “supply chain” term means, even as the two-year-old program graduates its first class of students May 21.

“People are learning about supply chain. They may not have thought about it until they ran out of toilet paper,” he said, recalling the shortage during the early days of the pandemic. The shortage, industry analysts said, had more to do with supply chain than hoarding.

Local market demand drove CVTC’s decision to start Supply Chain Management. While many people are working in related areas like purchasing and inventory control, businesses have need of people who can manage the logistics involved in the entire supply chain process, according to Baker.

As a senior divisional manager supporting 14 huge Walmart Distribution Centers in the western half of North America, 1988 CVTC graduate Jarett Cassellius knows the importance of supply chain management.

“Supply chain in its simplest form are the tasks and activities required to deliver goods and services to customers,” Cassellius said. “The processes include distribution, planning & scheduling, asset management, procurement, strategy, marketing, transportation and ultimately retail location.”

“We have a lot of non-traditional students who are already working in some form of supply chain,” Baker said. “They gain a broader understanding of supply chains through the program.”

That description applies well to two of the students expecting to graduate May 21, Melissa Miller, 37, of River Falls and Amanda Stephens, 39, of Menomonie.

Stephens, a 1999 graduate of Menomonie High School, had a job in purchasing at Tri-Mart Corporation in Menomonie for six years but got laid off. She liked purchasing, but ended up in a few other unrelated jobs, then earned her associate degree in Business Management from CVTC in 2017.

“I got a job in purchasing at Great Northern Corporation in Chippewa Falls,” Stephens said. “I always had a love for purchasing work. Then when I heard about the Supply Chain program at CVTC, I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”

Stephens was able to find a job closer to home in Menomonie as a project coordinator in construction for J.F. Ahern, a fire protection company. Needing an internship to finish the Supply Chain Management program, she was able to move into a purchasing position as an intern with the company.

“And I’ve been offered a full-time position in purchasing, so it all worked out,” she said.

Miller, who moved to River Falls after living 10 years in Elmwood, has worked as a stylist, a CNA, and at 3M in Menomonie. “3M is where I got interested in supply chain,” Miller said. “I did production work but had to order supplies and set schedules.”

Last year, Miller took a job in Hudson as a logistics specialist at Valley Companies, a supply chain and logistics-oriented trucking company, and is doing her internship there. “I am hoping when I graduate, I can move up the chain and stay with them,” she said. She added that she’d like to go on to UW-Stout for a bachelor’s degree in supply chain management.

“I really enjoy it,” Miller said. “All the classes are really interesting and being in an online program, I was able to work full time, and I have kids at home.”

Baker, who holds a Master of Business Administration from UW-Eau Claire, has worked in purchasing and inventory management, teaches the program-specific classes. They include classes in Fundamentals of Supply Chain, Principles of Distribution and Logistics, Principles of Inventory Management, Advanced Operational Planning and Enterprise Resource Management. Students also take some classes common with other business programs.

Six students are graduating from the first class, but more are in the graduate pipeline in the first three semester groups. Baker said there are almost 40 in total.

“They will be in high demand,” Baker predicted. “There’s a huge market out there for our graduates.”

“We all are working our way out of a worldwide pandemic, and the impact and the importance of supply chain has never been more front and center,” Cassellius said. “From manufacturing to transportation, the ability to provide items to the end user has been impacted at all levels. Customers’ shopping expectations as well as experiences continue to be raised and supply chain leaders will continue to be key in the world economy.”

With over 115 programs offered both online and on-campus, Chippewa Valley Technical College delivers superior, progressive technical education which improves the lives of students, meets the workforce needs of the region, and strengthens the community. CVTC programs are designed with input of business and industry to prepare graduates for today’s jobs, with 95 percent employed within six months of graduation and associate degree graduates earning an average annual salary of $47,452.