What do young people think about procurement?

(We're delighted to feature a guest post from Christina Langley.  Her firm, Langley search & selection, has been one of the leading recruitment firms in the procurement world for many years.  She will be writing for us occasionally on career, jobs, recruitment and related matters; and she starts today with this thought provoking piece).

Breathe a huge sigh of relief – my son has just gone to an excellent university to study Business Studies.  Knowing him well, (and coming from the procurement and supply chain profession myself), I know that his skills and attributes would suit working in a commercial area.  However, I think it unlikely that many students like him will end up in procurement and supply chain – and there are lots of reasons why.

Recent figures put graduate unemployment at its highest level for 17 years. The release of these figures is not good timing for the UK coalition government who is on the brink of saddling new entrants to university with thousands of pounds worth of debt and extended repayment schedules with interest rates set higher than inflation.  With tuition fees set to rise to a staggering £9000 (three times the current rate), ‘A’ level students are asking about the validity and worth of an expensive university degree. In the future many ‘A’ level students will duck going to university – often a precursor to getting even an interview into the profession.

And the sponsorship programmes for graduates and ‘A’ level students are generally no longer there.  The recession has meant that such programmes have been cut and sponsorship and internships/placements are hard to come by - these are, at best, limited and sporadic.

Anyway, what is procurement and supply chain?  Ask a bunch of ‘A’ level students and I can tell you that they have no idea. It’s not something that comes up on Facebook!  They know what accountants do, they know what marketing and sales people do – but procurement and supply chain?  There is no visibility of this area for them at a Careers Advice level in schools or in their general lessons.  And ask graduates and you generally you get the same blank looks……………

One answer might be for our Institutes (CIPS and CILT in the UK and their equivalents elsewhere) to take more of a lead and educate potential entrants on what a career in procurement and supply chain might look like, the salary structures, types of roles and routes to Institute qualifications and memberships. There really are some great careers to be had! This PR and education effort needs to be extensive at university, college and senior school levels to penetrate all potential entrants to the profession. And more work with potential employers (many of whom are members of the Institutes) might result in developing joint programmes for entrants.

At Langley we interview many candidates who ‘just fall into procurement and supply chain by accident’ at the start of their career, or indeed some way through it.  Instead of relying on this, let’s create the routes to attracting the best into our profession through structure, good organisation and having the determination to make it happen. Making procurement and supply chain a ‘destination career’ for entrants must be the target for all of us in the profession.

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Voices (7)

  1. bitter and twisted:

    But this is missing the wood for the trees. The key point is

    Business = Buy stuff, Do stuff to the stuff, Sell stuff

    Non-Business = Get Money, Buy stuff , Do stuff with stuff

    “Buy Stuff ” important

  2. pietro:

    ….I think that lot of persons do not really know/understand the potential we handle daily. It is more than just buying a box of apple. Procurement is the TOP of all (bigger) companies. Personally I do not know any bigger deal been finalised without our involvemnt, we are also not an option we are essential!

  3. MarketDojo:

    I particularly like the sentiments of this article as it resonates very well with our beliefs. We have lined up two lectures* to various business schools around the country and it is likely we shall schedule in a third. Our topics are generally confined to e-auctions and e-procurement, plus we seek to host an interactive session with the attendees so they get a flavour of online negotiations to demonstrate both pros and cons from the buyer and supplier perspectives.

    I only graduated 6 years ago and kind of fell into procurement myself having studied Mechanical Engineering, so I hope that through interactive and interesting sessions such as these we might encourage graduates to proactively seek roles within the procurement field. Personally I have found that jobs in procurement present an excellent opportunity to rapidly progress your career and to become a key player for your company.

    [* Although termed “lectures”, it is more of an opportunity for us to share our experiences really, as we don’t consider ourselves as an authority figure to “lecture” someone!]

  4. bitter and twisted:

    Oh no, I dont think 22 years olds in general are BS artists. Its the shiny eyed keen ones professing a deep lifelong passion* for procurement that make me suspicious.

    I think Purchasing would be best served by raising its importance as a topic within other subjects.

    *subsitute phrase de jour as appropriate

  5. Guy:


    Far from being BS artists, I find 22 year olds a good antidote to the older BS artists. They usually come in, really keen, and start asking the basic ‘naiive’ questions that challenge some of the status quo positions which are based on feelings rather thanb facts and data.

    In terms of CIPS providing more input into Universities etc, this was somwething I proposed whilst on the Council, and offered my time to get involved.

    An offer that was never pursued.

  6. bitter and twisted:

    Yeah great. Swamp the job market with a bunch of 22 year old BS-artists.

    The “…falling into” is a good thing. Let the dullards join finance, the liars sales, the drunk marketing, the nerds IT.

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