Attracting the right young people into procurement – some thoughts from a young person!

How do we attract more of the right sort of people - young or old - into procurement? That's a question that resonates not just with CIPS and others who represent the profession in some sense, but also to anyone in a management role who needs to recruit and retain the right people to help make their own organisation a success.

That's the subject I discussed recently with a real live young person in procurement. We're keeping her anonymous as frankly we couldn't be bothered to go through the whole rigmarole of getting her firm to approve this article, but she has been in procurement for just a few months, working in central London (so you can probably guess the industry). She previously spent a couple of years post university working in an IT services firm, and before that in a pretty mundane admin role.

So let's call her Ms X.  (And in case anyone is worried that Spend Matters hangs around street corners waiting for random young procurement ladies to show up, she is the daughter of a friend of a friend ...)

So, Ms X, how and why did you get into procurement? Was that an ambition back in school or Uni days?

No, I'd never heard of procurement at school or university! I have a science degree, but I wanted to try some different areas after graduating. Then in my last firm, one of my senior colleagues had previously held senior procurement roles. Although he was then doing more of a consulting role, he was a real procurement evangelist, he told me about the importance of procurement, how varied it is, and the more I heard about it, the more I liked the sound of it. He really inspired me, so when a job came up, I went for it.

And has it lived up to your expectations?

Absolutely! I'm really enjoying it, the work is very interesting and varied. I've also started the CIPS course and I'm looking to get involved with the Institute via my local branch. But I wish I had done a subject at Uni that got me more exemptions from the CIPS course.

What makes you so positive about it?

The variation - when I first heard about procurement I liked the idea of working with different people in different areas. And being able to see projects through, from the start of a tender to having a supplier running the contract for instance. And it has lived up to that. I'm involved in IT procurement, so there is a lot of stakeholder contact and involvement as well as supplier side. I’m getting involved in everything from benchmarking and analysis to real negotiations.

So how do we market the profession to people like you - and even the younger version of you?

We have to go out and get into schools and universities and talk to people, tell them what a great job it is! I never saw any mention of procurement at careers fairs, or any literature. Get in front of young people, and we can sell the benefits like the variety. And the ability to work in procurement but across almost every industry - whatever sector you are interested in, you can do procurement in it, whether it is film, fashion, retail, legal ...

I'd never really though t about it like that!

Yes, I mean it's really difficult to get into "film" or "fashion" generally, but you can do procurement work in those sectors which is interesting in itself and you never know, that might lead onto other roles outside procurement in that sector.

That's true - I know people who are working in sexy industries like sport, music, films, but in a procurement role. It's not all factories, local authorities and banks! What about social media? Could CIPS and the profession use that more to promote to young people?

Do young people want to watch YouTube videos about procurement? I'm not sure. But maybe the next generation who have really grown up with it will be different (Editor's note - that made me feel REALLY ancient - a 25 year old talking about the "next generation"!) But anything that gets the message across that procurement work is really exciting and interesting would be good.


So thanks to Ms X, and if we can get a few thousand (tens of thousands?) of people like her into procurement, the future looks good.

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