Reaching out to grow your own (sow the seeds to reap the rewards)

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How did you come into procurement?  Was it planned or merely happenstance?


Twenty years ago I saw an advert and thought it looked interesting.  From that point on I’ve built a career but if I’d not seen that internal vacancy I probably wouldn’t be doing what I do now?

So, twenty years on, is it any different?  We have a new starter this week who has a business degree and whose father works in the NHS but she hadn’t considered NHS Jobs as a portal for career opportunities.  It’s not unsurprising then that we get the same applicants for every job we post on NHS jobs or that the quality is usually quite poor.

Where will our future procurement professionals come from and how can we encourage people to think of a career in procurement as a fantastic opportunity and a rewarding job?  After all, the NHS isn’t just doctors and nurses!

About three years ago I started to go into schools (my daughter’s school actually) as they wanted local employers to attend a careers fair.  The stands included, the NHS, the Armed Forces, the Council, Colleges, and the largest factory. Probably a familiar setup in lots of localities?  (Sadly I knew the NHS stand was only going to be geared up to answer questions about medical posts – so I decided to be maverick and try something different).  My stand probably looked a little out of place as it wasn’t advertising an employer but a profession.  Procurement; a great career choice.

It took a while before I got any interaction as folks just didn’t get it – err Procurement?   (I’ve since changed it to ‘a career as a buyer’).  The few who did come possibly only came because there was an iTunes voucher to win – lured by advertising.  (Well, they might as well hear about sales tactics early on!)

Those who came I tried the following dialogue.

Look around you, what do you see and what can’t you see?  How do you think it got here? (‘someone bought it’).  That job can be a job you can do!  Often the response came back, ‘I can’t do that’.  I bet you can…..

Can you:

  • Communicate?  (or as I put it, ‘have you ever used a telephone’ – they all had mobile phones)
  • Have you ever used a computer to buy something? (a majority had)
  • Can you negotiate? (Or in the way I phrased it, ‘have you ever asked a parent for money or to stay out later at a party?’ – unsurprisingly plenty had done this too)

See, there you go, you have building blocks for a career in procurement.  We have a conversation with someone about buying what they need, we use technology to place an order and we speak to suppliers about the price and ensuring it gets there on time.  Speak to any of the other stands in this room and you’ll find they have a Procurement (or buying) department.  Make it a career choice for you.

I wasn’t sure how well it had gone but 12 months later we had our first apprentice from that school who is now a Senior Buyer.  In our new apprentice intake we have someone from a college we attended in April

We’ve developed our interaction with local schools over time and have done things like interview practice, presentations and even careers speed-dating.  We’ve had someone come to visit us who wants to join next year’s intake following a presentation by our first apprentice at their school.

Ian Willis MCIPS

Head of Procurement

York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust