University of Tennessee

Supply Chain Summer Workshop Provides Students Hands-on Experience in Lieu of Internships

August 14, 2020

The novel coronavirus’ impact on the U.S. economy has upended the business plans of many companies. Among other repercussions, summer internships were often cut or shortened. To make up for the business experience deficit these lost internships represent, the Department of Supply Chain Management in University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Haslam College of Business offered a Skills and Professional Development Workshop for rising seniors to attain tangible supply chain skills immediately applicable in the business world. The workshop came at no cost to the students.

Students in the workshop engaged in a variety of sessions, including one-on-one meetings with career professionals via Zoom, virtual roundtable discussions with faculty and employers and specialized workshops. Several partner organizations of the department’s Global Supply Chain Institute assisted with the workshop, including Bush Brothers, Caterpillar, CoreTrust, Leidos, Nissan and Shaw Industries. Their representatives delivered presentations on various careers in supply chain and interacted with the participants to provide rich educational information and practical advice for entering the job market.

Cole Burns, the department’s director of student career management, says that as the extent of the COVID-19 disruption to internships became evident, administrators and faculty quickly developed alternative means for students to gain essential skills and experience that internships would have afforded.

“Learning on the job is different from learning in an academic environment, but we challenged students to treat workshop participation as if it were a job in which their task was to acquire valuable professional skills,” he says. “Participants ended the summer term with an immersion in the supply chain field and qualifications in programming languages and other pertinent areas.”

Upon completion of the workshop, students had:

  • Worked in a team to deliver a presentation outlining upcoming industry trends, issues or challenges
  • Reviewed and polished their resumes with a career development professional, with the intent of having it included in the program’s resume book
  • Earned LinkedIn learning certifications in:
    • Ariba
    • SAP
    • Tableau 
    • Lean Six Sigma 
    • Project Management 
    • And one of the following: SQL, R, Python, C++, Ruby, Data Integration Specialist (Via AWS)

Student response was enthusiastic.

“The workshop was an incredibly valuable experience for me,” Bridgette Larsen said. “I’ve learned so much about supply chain management and have been able to virtually connect with professionals across all sectors from the participating companies. Additionally, the sessions on forecasting, Tableau and SAP ERPs, to name a few, helped me shape my goals for my future career.”

Joseph Roebuck was studying abroad in Chile for the summer when classes were moved online. “Forced to be home and unable to intern, I was confused about next steps,” Roebuck said. “The workshop advanced my supply chain knowledge with insightful industry professionals and outlined how to attain relevant certifications. I am beyond grateful for Cole Burns and the entire SCM staff for investing in my professional development.”

The workshop was not an academic course, so no final grade was given. However, Mary Long, director of the Global Supply Chain Institute’s Supply Chain Forum, believes those who completed the session garnered something equally worthwhile.

“Participants honed skills that would have been gained in an internship to more effectively approach their job search, and they internalized the discipline that comes from working hard to master complex subjects,” she says. “While the participants are understandably disappointed to have their internship plans upset, we have been thrilled to help our exceptional students prepare for their careers through other means.”


Scott McNutt, business writer/publicist,