The economic situation has thrust procurement into the spotlight, but there remains a lack of high-quality professionals queuing up to become purchasers – with many graduates not even aware of it as an option.
There are several reasons for this. One is the perceived unattractiveness of the profession. At a recent Barclay Meade roundtable, most people admitted they had stumbled into the profession by accident or because their first career choice had stalled.
Other issues highlighted were the lack of promotion by university and other career services, and recruitment agencies submitting inappropriate candidates. Another problem is that other options, such as finance, law, technology or marketing, are seen as more exciting.
Part of the issue is that procurement is still, to an extent, viewed as a career built on restricting spend and forcing compliance.
If the profession is to attract an increasing amount of young and enthusiastic talent this perception has to change. The industry needs to showcase some of the more innovative, exciting and tangible elements of the work. Creating faster and more flexible supply chains, improving margins through innovation and aiding revenue streams, are just a few of the facets that need to be highlighted.
Some argue relaxing the barriers of entry would encourage a greater number of graduates and other professionals to join. There is something to be said for attracting more people; however, in this context, quality is more important than quantity. Procurement should aim to be a relatively elitist profession for which the barriers to entry remain quite high.
The profession is still relatively young and has not had as much time to establish itself as a leading career option alongside the more celebrated choices. Despite this, procurement professionals can, and do, have a major impact on the profitability and success of the world’s largest organisations and play a fundamental role in tackling the financial challenges facing governments.
It is important we take advantage of the current environment to make sure procurement remains in the limelight and becomes an increasingly attractive career path. We can all do something personally to support this by speaking up for the profession, by being proud and evangelistic about what we do, and promoting the benefits of procurement to those making career choices.
☛ Howard Price is a managing partner at 4C Associates