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Top reasons graduates should consider procurement as a viable career option

by Adam Burgess | 11 March 2019

In England, a record 27.9 percent of the 18 year old population were accepted to university through UCAS in 2018, making our graduate talent pool bigger than any. But why is Procurement still struggling to attract graduates into the sector? In this blog, Principal Consultant Adam Burgess looks at the benefits of choosing a career in procurement and why more young people should consider it as a viable career option. Procurement as a profession is often overlooked by graduates due to a lack of knowledge about the sector which is causing a talent shortage, especially at the junior end of the market. Graduates tend to overlook procurement jobs in favour of sectors they have more knowledge about or they deem to be more exciting.   

Our clients often tell us that they struggle to attract keen graduates to the procurement sector which is causing a talent shortage, especially at entry level. We spoke to a number of our clients and candidates to get their thoughts on why more young people should consider procurement as a career.

What is procurement and why is it so important?

In simple terms procurement is the act of acquiring something for business purposes. This can cover a range of requirements including services, skills, supplies and assets for the business that enables it to operate in an ethical and profitable manner as well as the management of contracts and supplier relationships. Procurement is a vital part of any business and is responsible for up to 70 percent of a company’s revenue as small reductions in costs can have a large impact on profits.

Why should graduates choose a job in procurement?

Graduates who are looking for a role that can offer quick progression in a sector that has numerous opportunities should consider procurement. With the current state of the market and the lack of talent to fill procurement jobs across the UK, the opportunities are very positive and very exciting. If you decide to enter this sector you could progress quickly!

The procurement sector has also advanced in recent years. Procurement leaders are now at the forefront of transformational change. Chief Procurement Officers (CPOs) and their teams are now an integral part of many businesses and are commonly seen in boardrooms helping with the strategic direction of a company, making the role incredibly varied, fast paced and exciting. So, if you are an ambitious graduate looking for a challenge, this is a great career option for you.

Are you a graduate looking for variety in your career? The sheer variety of sectors that procurement interacts with makes it appealing for anyone looking for new challenges. Procurement gives you the opportunity to collaborate with individuals from various sectors, gaining a wealth of cross-industry experience, making the job incredibly varied.

What career opportunities do procurement leaders have?

Graduates looking for stability and security will see the career opportunities are endless within procurement. A fully qualified Member of the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (MCIPS) with the right amount of experience and achievements will be in high demand and rarely be out of work.

A career in purchasing and supply management can offer you a variety of jobs in a number of different industries. There are also numerous areas of specialisation or category such as fleet, facilities, IT, Social Care as well as more generalist roles. Procurement job titles can range from Procurement Officer and Procurement Advisor to Strategic Category Manager and Procurement Specialist.

As a Consultant who specialises in public and not-for-profit sectors, I know first-hand that the market, especially the North East, is very candidate led and a good quality candidate will not be on the market for long. There seems to be far more opportunities in the market than there are candidates.

How can graduates become procurement specialists?

Although there are a variety of routes into procurement, these days the majority of people that are entering the profession have been to university beforehand. As a result, procurement employers are looking for high-calibre graduates, often with either a specialist purchasing and supply degree or a more general business degree. Once in a role, many procurement professionals will find that their employer will encourage to them to sit the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply (CIPS) graduate diploma: a degree-level professional qualification. For those who have studied business-related degrees, there may be some exemptions from the CIPS qualification, but this will be assessed on application. 

More and more businesses are also introducing graduate training schemes so it is worth speaking with firms and finding out if this is something they offer and when the next intake of applicants might be.

What additional qualifications do graduates need to work in procurement?

Although not essential, our clients have told us that procurement industry qualifications are important and ensure that candidates are up-to-date with best practice and the latest professional standards. Procurement qualifications will set candidates apart and often help make career progression faster. In the UK, the CIPS qualification is the industry standard and is usually required for most procurement jobs

Candidates can work towards a CIPS qualification via online learning providers, making it fairly easy to get qualified at a pace that works for each individual candidate. It is also possible to complete this whilst working, so on the job training can also be an option within this sector. Typically candidates are required to complete their CIPS qualification then gain three years’ worth of experience in the field in order to gain full membership, allowing use of the title MCIPS.

What salary and rewards should procurement leaders expect?

It is very difficult to generalise on the subject of starting salaries, given that packages will differ greatly between one sector and another, and even between organisations within the same sector. However, at the lower end for a graduate we would estimate about £18,000, rising to £25,000 at the upper end. Generally this figure should progress to around £32,500 for middle management, jumping to £56,000 for senior management and £75,000 plus for director level

No single role in procurement will ever be the same. The organisation you choose to work for will determine what goods and services will need to be bought, and will determine the types of candidate they require. In the early stages, the secret is to gain as much experience as possible in as many areas as possible in order to decide which area of procurement is most suitable. The most important point to remember is that in the purchasing field the potential for career progression is excellent, and the opportunities to carve out a successful and rewarding career are there for the taking for the right candidates.

The candidates we speak to about our procurement jobs are always excited by the career opportunities in the sector. Get in touch with me today to find out if procurement is for you and start your journey to being a procurement specialist today!