Our Profession Might Be “Unglamorous,” but Hiring is Ramping up in Procurement and Supply Chain

With a hat-tip to the Vendor Management Office blog, I came across this article from CNN that suggests hiring is ramping up in supply management. According to the story, our profession is one "where there just aren't enough skilled candidates to go around." I could not agree more with one of the challenges of hiring the right employees for the job. To wit, "making sure stuff gets where it needs to go, as cheaply and efficiently as possible, has evolved into a high-tech, high-stakes game that calls for a scarce combination of 'hard' and 'soft' skills." Even though the article appears slanted towards the logistics side of supply chain -- rather than broader sourcing and supply management -- I believe the same hiring challenges, not to mention opportunities for recent grads, hold in procurement as well.

The skills gap is one that I've written about quite a bit before. In fact, it's been a constant theme in many of my presentations to companies over the years. But I argue that in today's environment, the emphasis probably needs to be more on bringing some of the 'hard' or quant skills into the function. From spend analysis (and opportunity identification using increasingly larger and combined datasets) to commodity management strategies that go beyond strategic sourcing to focus on direct and indirect hedging strategies -- not to mention a range of other techniques -- I think the ideal procurement analyst hire of 2011 is more likely to be someone with a background in finance or economics (or potentially liberal arts, but with solid analytical skills) than someone simply with a degree from a university in "supply chain management."

Now, don't get me wrong. Arizona, Michigan State, Georgia Tech and other schools turn out top-notch supply chain and procurement grads. But I'd equally consider -- and indeed seek out -- someone with an economics background from The University of Chicago or Dartmouth who would otherwise look for a job in consulting or on Wall Street. It's these folks who I believe have the potential to reshape our profession in the next two decades, and I believe that the current state of the economy as well as the elevation of issues like global trade, the domestic manufacturing economy and the future of China have the potential to attract a new generation of minds into our profession that will change it in ways we can't begin to imagine today.

- Jason Busch

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