Melissa Miller CVTC graduate

Melissa Miller of River Falls, a graduate of Chippewa Valley Technical College’s Supply Chain Management program, sits at her desk at Valley Companies, a supply chain and logistics-oriented trucking company based in Hudson. CVTC photo

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 2-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 need 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 students expecting to graduate May 21, including Melissa Miller, 37, of River Falls.

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 the University of Wisconsin-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.” 

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.

“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.”

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