Procurement as a career

With procurement becoming an increasingly important business function both within private sector companies and public sector organisations, the “war for talent” for individuals with relevant experience and skillsets is a hard-fought one. With this in mind, it is interesting to reflect on the source of such talent: how do people get into procurement?
University degrees focused on business management or similar disciplines are increasingly popular, with many young adults believing that possessing a degree is important, but at the same time looking to develop skills and competencies which are directly relevant to the corporate world. However, very few of these courses even touch upon procurement or supply chain at all, instead looking at topics such as economics, finance, HR, and leadership. Indeed, most degrees which do relate to procurement tend to be at post-grad level and tailored to individuals already in the profession.
Whilst some graduate schemes which offer “rotations” to various business functions do include procurement or purchasing this is far from the norm. This trend is, broadly speaking, more prevalent in the manufacturing or construction sectors and therefore by nature, focused upon direct procurement. 

How do people get into procurement? 

The most common answer is that people fall into it. Many people transition into procurement roles from other business functions within the same organisation – for example, IT professionals who then move into service delivery to vendor management to IT sourcing. Or quality engineers who then involve themselves in designing the spec for components sourced, and move into technical buying roles, and beyond. Or quantity surveyors who move into materials buying and up into procurement management positions within construction or facilities management businesses.
Interestingly, there are a handful of procurement professionals who actually come from a recruitment background. One example is a former agency recruiter who moved into internal talent acquisition, and having been involved in developing preferred supplier lists and managing relationships with agency suppliers, caught the bug for HR procurement and moved into a core procurement function. There are even at least two examples of former Michael Page consultants who have moved into procurement.
Some quirkier stories involve individuals who had previously been head brewers, or even one individual who decided to move into procurement twenty years after a heated discussion with a current US presidential candidate.
Whilst it is beneficial for procurement functions to include individuals from a range of backgrounds, there is a belief in the market that we as a community need to be doing more to encourage youngsters with high potential to choose procurement as a career path. Indeed, for the uninitiated, procurement as a word holds very little meaning and if people do not even know what it is or means, how can they choose to pursue this career path? 

What can be done to get young people into procurement? 

The general consensus is that we should be getting involved at a more grassroots level, giving talks at schools and universities, and making informational materials available to those who show an interest. 
We should talk more about procurement to anyone who will listen, perfecting our elevator pitch of what it is, why it is interesting and ultimately why it matters. Unless the profession can begin to attract more talent and earlier, the demand will soon outstrip supply and the overall effect will be a drop in the quality of hire. This would compromise the good work that procurement can do and the impact on the bottom line. 
If you’d like to more information on how to get into procurement contact Simon Johnson on 01159 349611.