The Global Student Challenge is under way again, and this year will be even bigger and better than ever. Around 10,000-15,000 students from 400-500 universities will compete for prize money worth €20,000 as they bring all their supply chain finance knowledge and teamworking skills to the competition.

This truly is a global event. Last year’s winners from Glasgow University in Scotland beat second and third place teams from the Foreign Trade University in Vietnam and Novosibirsk State Technical University in Russia. Other finalists came from countries as diverse as Norway, China, Brazil, the US, Morocco and even The Netherlands.

Let me first of all explain how the Global Student Challenge has worked for the last three years before explaining this year’s new and exciting twist.

  • At the heart of the Challenge has been a business simulation game called The Cool Connection, a supply chain finance training tool involving a fictional manufacturing business.
  • In the qualifying rounds, teams take part online and those that achieve a certain level of success then go through to their regional finals.
  • The Top 20 or so teams then go through to the week-long final which is held in The Netherlands.

This year we are introducing a whole new aspect to the competition. Up until the finals stage, there will actually be two competition tracks running in parallel – The Cool Connection supply chain finance challenge that we’ve been running and a new supply chain strategy competition powered by The Fresh Connection business simulation. The best teams in each track will come together in the final, which takes place 2nd-6th April 2018. So this year, 40 teams comprising around 150-160 students from all over the world will arrive in Windesheim to compete for the top prize of €10,000.

To have a chance of being the overall winner, teams that comes up through the supply chain finance track will also have to be masters of supply chain strategy. And the best teams in the ‘strategy’ track will have to demonstrate their knowledge of supply chain finance.

Multi-disciplined teamwork

One of the things that really makes this competition reflect the challenges out in the real world is that it requires a multidiscipline approach and real teamwork. There are so many critical decisions to make, it’s just not possible for a team to win by relying on their finance expert or the student who knows everything about logistics. Every decision affects every other function, so teams have to work together and optimise their decision-making.

Introducing the two-track feature this year is a way of bringing the finance and operational disciplines closer together, and in particular to build up financial skills within the supply chain management domain. But while the approach is cross-disciplinary, it still remains tightly focused so that it does not become the sort of generic ‘general management’ business game seen elsewhere.

A global career boost

For the best participants, this is more than just a really fun competition. It can also be an experience that has a very real and positive effect on their careers. We know that many universities around the world that take part in the game have good connections with businesses in their home territories. What many of them lack, however, is a connection with the global multinationals with complex and far-reaching supply chains.

What the Global Student Challenge does, therefore, is make our database of competitors available to leading corporates who are on the hunt for the best students from around the world. While team performance is measured purely by return on investment (ROI), the judging process also includes evaluations of participants’ team-working, video presentation skills and their individual contribution to team success.

This information helps recruiters spot the brightest talent – and can give game players a real boost to their careers. The students love it and the companies love the diversity of talent they can reach. I’m really excited by this aspect of the game, which truly helps develop our profession by motivating, recognising and rewarding the next generation.

The shared experience

Every bit as important as all this, however, is that we are bringing so many young people together in one place, sharing experiences, learning about different cultures and discovering all the many things that they have in common. It’s what really impressed me about the finalists in 2016: they prepared well, they knew their topic, their team-working was great. But they also mixed and mingled very easily with each other.

We could run the final as a purely online event – and to be sure, it would be a lot easier logistically if we did so. But where’s the fun in that? It’s so much better for everyone for us to enable these bright young students to get together for a week and let them start building a lifelong network of friends and professional peers. A competition without a global final in a physical location doesn’t feel like a finished product, to me.

I can’t wait to meet the finalists next spring. I’m sure all of us involved in the game will learn something from them, too.

Teams can register to enter the qualifying rounds of The Global Student Challenge up until the end of October 2017. Click for further information about The Cool Connection track, which bridges the physical and financial supply chains, or The Fresh Connection track, which focuses on supply chain strategy. Or you can email info@globalstudentchallenge.org.