HS2 looking for 'free thinking' buyers in big recruitment drive

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
19 January 2015

The chief buyer for HS2 has told SM she is looking for “free thinkers and people different from the mould” as the project aims to recruit “well over 50” procurement professionals this year.

Beth West, commercial director for HS2, said pressure to be cost effective meant they wanted to build the railway in a more collaborative way than in the past.

“We want to build this in a different way than things have been done before, so if we find the same people who have done the same things we will get the same outcomes we have always got,” she said.

“This is a big commitment of taxpayers’ money and we have to find ways to be as cost effective as humanly possible. What we have seen in other industries more than the rail sector - and the rail sector is catching up now - is collaborative working with the supply chain. We’ve seen all kinds of research that that’s how you deliver more cost effectively, and you get the best outcomes.”

West said they would be looking “far and wide” across sectors such as construction, pharmaceuticals and oil and gas to find the “best and the brightest”. Available roles range from apprenticeships to directors, such as the recent appointment of Nigel McKay as director of construction procurement, and HS2 will using social media and events to attract people.

“It’s especially important for me that we bring in this diverse group, and for me diversity has a really wide remit. It’s not just gender and race but it's about free thinkers and people who are different from the mould,” said West. “It’s trying to identify where those people are and let them know there are opportunities for them.”

West said career development was an essential factor. “We want people who are really committed to the project and if we have that expectation we have to give back to them our own commitment to help them in their careers,” she said. “Companies who are smart about their people have better performance than companies that aren’t.”

West also said work to engage the supply chain over the past 18 months, including supplier conferences, had been useful. “It has influenced our packaging strategy, our procurement processes that we’re looking to put into place,” she said. “It’s been really useful because we’ve been able to get a whole range of views to confirm what we thought or change our strategy.”

She added: “Having a strong relationship with suppliers will be critical to our success.”

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