Skills shortage makes purchasers hard to find

17 May 2000
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18 May 2000 | Liam O'Brien

The shortage of skilled purchasing and logistics staff means that more than four out of 10 business are expecting recruitment difficulties in these functions, according to a new survey.

The quarterly Cranfield University School of Management recruitment confidence index (RCI), which polled 975 UK companies across a variety of sectors about their recruitment expectations in the first quarter of this year, showed that 42 per cent anticipated problems in filling managerial and professional purchasing and logistics vacancies over the next six months.

This compares with 33 per cent in the previous survey, which was carried out in December.

This quarter's purchasing results, released exclusively to SM, revealed that just 8 per cent of employers were expecting to take on procurement staff at a managerial or professional level, compared with 3 per cent in December's survey.

Jos van Ommeren, a senior researcher at Cranfield, said: "The survey tells us that employment is virtually static in this sector, but that quite a high proportion of businesses are expecting to find a skills shortage in the jobs market."

There had been a decline in perceived skills shortages since the last survey, he added.

A similar situation was found in logistics. Employment growth was anticipated by only 9 per cent of respondents. Forty-two per cent were preparing themselves for difficulties in trying to fill vacancies.

The survey confirmed that the organisations questioned, which employed between 15 and 120,000 employees and ranged across the public and private sectors, rated procurement as being of fairly low importance.

Of the 10 job functions analysed, purchasing was the area in which employers were least willing to recruit. Sales was the field in which companies were keenest to find staff.

Van Ommeren said: "The 8 per cent of companies that expect to recruit in purchasing is low compared with other functions, such as sales, where 26 per cent expect to."

Purchasing recruitment consultants said their experience mirrored the survey's skill-shortage findings.

Mark Williams, operations director at Supply Chain Personnel, said: "Our clients' experience is that finding the right people is difficult. Expectations for purchasing jobs have changed dramatically over the past five years. Firms now want people who are more dynamic, more commercial, and they view them as critical to the business, when they were not before."

But Ray Cobbett, operations director at procurement services firm PSL, thought that the 8 per cent had underestimated the number of purchasing employees they would require and that overall demand was stronger.

"The real number looking for staff is probably twice that. Demand is high at the moment. We could place six times more people if we had them," he said.

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