Procurement and Graduates - Filling the Knowledge Gap

What does the word ‘procurement’ mean to a recent graduate like myself? Throughout the last year as a Recruitment Consultant specialising in the discipline, I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to interact with various senior professionals, who have provided me with a valuable insight into the core activities of the procurement function, the value it can add to an organisation, and how the role has evolved (and will likely to continue to evolve) over time. Rewind back to this time last year, however, and the prospect of writing a blog on the subject would have been greeted with excessive sweating and a dryness of the mouth.


Sure, my degree gave me a familiarity of supply chain and its place in a global economy, however procurement was a phrase that just didn’t resonate with me. I’m sure the same assumption could be made on behalf of many in my age group, who all share a look of bemusement when I tell them what market I operate in. “Procurement? That’s just buying stuff, right?” is a commonplace response.


This absence of understanding in today’s Millennials could be attributed to a lack of interest in the subject, along with a common perception that a career in procurement doesn’t offer the same prospects as other areas of the labour market. The Financial Reporting Council recently documented that there are currently around 164,000 people in the UK and ROI studying for their accountancy exams, spread across the seven accounting bodies (excluding AAT) – roughly 38% of these are below the age of 25. CIPS, on the other hand, has a worldwide membership of approximately 35,000, and from interacting with the market, it would appear a greater proportion of these individuals are of a more senior demographic.


Should increasing numbers of graduates wish to pursue a career in procurement, it would seem now is an opportune moment. On a macroeconomic scale, it is estimated that revenue in the industry has grown 20% per year since 2010, and is anticipated to continue to grow at around 15% for the next 3-5 years. This can be attributed to varying factors, including ever rising savings targets (particularly since the 2008 financial crisis), the introduction of more stringent regulatory measures, the globalisation of the worldwide economy, and heightened supply chain risk – all of which create greater demand for educated procurement professionals. From a personal development perspective, a career in procurement can offer graduates early exposure to senior stakeholders, in addition to a varied work life, with the opportunity to conduct a range of activities such as market analysis, supplier negotiation and category planning in an industry that has evolved from an operational, administrative service into a more strategic, efficiency driven function.


So, how then, can we get more graduates involved in procurement? The general consensus seems to be to promote the industry through education. It may be necessary for some sort of educational reform, which facilitates the integration of procurement specific modules into relevant degree courses. Alternatively, the involvement of more procurement bodies at University events would raise the profession’s profile, and an awareness of the value the function can add to the bottom line. The key, I feel, like in the Recruitment industry, is to adopt a pro-active approach to generate positive results, and in the words of Andrew Coulcher- Director of Membership and Knowledge at CIPS - to ‘drive the agenda onwards instead of waiting for change to come’.


By Scott Sears Procurement and Supply Chain Consultant - Banking & Financial Services - Interim, Contract and Permanent

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