Now more than ever, supplier diversity professionals are a fundamental component of organizations worldwide, interacting with every facet of an organization from procurement and business development to diversity and inclusion and oftentimes even community relations. Stakeholders must not only have a basic understanding of the supplier diversity function, but also the key competencies needed to drive the organization and achieve results. Responding to these multifaceted demands, the University of Central Florida has recently launched the Supplier Diversity Training Institute (SDTI).
Facilitated by two leaders in supplier diversity, Kathey Porter, an award-winning, all-star supplier diversity champion and small business strategist, along with Ingrid Watkins, a former supplier diversity executive with the Coca-Cola Co. and CEO of IWCG of Atlanta, SDTI will officially launch its curriculum April 3 to 5 in Orlando, FL.
BLACK ENTERPRISE sat with Porter, the author of 50 Billion Dollar Boss: African American Women Sharing Stories of Success in Entrepreneurship and Leadership (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015 and NAACP Image Award Nominee–Outstanding Literary Work, Nonfiction) and Implementing Supplier Diversity: A Driver of Entrepreneurship (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019), to learn more about this exciting program.
BLACK ENTERPRISE: This program is pretty novel in its purpose and execution. Can you give us a 50,000-foot view of what the Supplier Diversity Training Institute is all about?
Porter: The Supplier Diversity Training Institute (SDTI) is a pedagogy-based program that examines the fundamentals of developing an effective, results-driven supplier diversity and inclusion program. It provides an exclusive opportunity for supplier diversity and procurement professionals (along with relevant stakeholders) to explore key competencies that support diversity and drive performance within their organizations.
What is the Institute’s target audience?
The primary target audience is, of course, supplier diversity professionals. However, in today’s workplace, supplier diversity touches all levels of the organization. I’ve also seen supplier diversity embedded in a variety of departments, which often creates competing priorities.
To avoid this result, it is important for all departments to have an understanding of what supplier diversity is and how it functions. That said, we also recommend this course for buyers, purchasing and procurement professionals, supply chain professionals, VPs of material management, contract compliance officers/analysts, strategic sourcing professionals, facilities/construction professionals and D&I leaders.
Describe the core curriculum overview and its format.
Through the partnership with the University of Central Florida, our content reflects a pedagogical approach, which allows for a deeper understanding of the industry, its relevance within organizations today, and its increasing importance as a differentiator and driver of economic development. It includes not only an introduction of basic concepts but also the context for how the concepts function in practice, along with the tools for effective, strategic decision-making. Participants will, of course, experience the full gamut of academic rigor expected from a program operating at this level, from expert speakers and clinical workshops to focused research activities and impromptu presentations.
How does this program distinguish itself from other certification-focused initiatives?
This program is different in that with most certification programs the process requires the participant to study, take an exam, and maintain a specific number of continuing credit hours to keep the certification in good standing. While certification credentials are great and help to demonstrate aptitude and knowledge of basic concepts, this program isn’t geared toward those outcomes.
Our course takes a deep dive into developing multifaceted industry insights, complex skillsets, and expert level effectiveness. The experience is akin to a practicum. Participants can also expect to receive a Supplier Diversity Leadership certificate issued by the University of Central Florida as well as credits that are applicable for any credible professional certifications.
What benefits can attendees hope to gain by attending the training?
The truth is that not every organization has intentionality when it comes to staffing this role. New hires (and sometimes entrenched staff) often have this function added to their primary job description out of necessity. Our hope is that practitioners who are in this role and want to become more effective will leverage the institute as a resource to expand their professional reach.
For individuals working collaboratively with supplier diversity professionals, we hope they walk away with a deeper understanding of the role and its objectives within an organization. Ultimately, the goal is for them to develop the skills necessary to work purposefully and strategically with other supplier diversity professionals.
Why do you think this course is needed?
There are three reasons why I think this course is needed in today’s marketplace:
First, when I began working in this industry many years ago, aside from the big, national conferences, there were very few places offering the knowledge necessary to do the job well. There was simply a lack of resources in this regard.
Second, last year, I had the honor of being asked to write a book about supplier diversity, Implementing Supplier Diversity: A Driver of Entrepreneurship. Through that experience, as well as talking to other industry professionals, it became clear that there was an overwhelming need for this kind of educational experience. The feedback included the desire to learn how to be effective in the role and valuable to the organizations and communities served.
Finally, supplier diversity typically interfaces with procurement, supply chain, and construction departments. As the workplace continues to evolve, each of these business facets also evolves and reengineers the competencies and qualifications required of them. Supplier diversity should be no different.