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Procurement Graduate Schemes – Insights for Graduates and Employers

​The reputation of procurement graduate schemes in the market is strong. Many global businesses run successful 2 - 3 year schemes, which are known for taking on graduates who show promise and potential to succeed. During this period, a graduate is likely to work across multiple categories of spend as well as potentially spending time working in Contracts Management or Supplier Relationship Management.

Graduates who successfully complete a procurement graduate scheme are likely to be in a better position to kick-start their career in procurement. Candidates who successfully complete a graduate scheme are very likely to be hired by employers, as well-recognised graduate schemes have a strong reputation of developing credible procurement professionals.

The above being said, it is important to not get complacent as there are areas that not all schemes cater for and skills that may require further development post finishing a graduate scheme.

We spoke with Liam Reed and David Farquharson (Sky Graduates 2015) to discuss their thoughts about the Sky graduate scheme.

Liam Reed – ASOS IT Procurement Buyer

“A procurement graduate scheme was attractive to me for a number of reasons; the variety of work the role encompasses, the ability to influence profitability through commercial discussions and agreements and, mainly, the fact that you get to be involved in a little bit of everything - some finance, some law, some subject matter expertise, all knitted together in a commercial role.

From my previous experience in a Procurement Graduate role it’s fair to say I did get the variety. I was supported in my development to an extent - the organisation offered to put the graduates through CIPS as part of the scheme. However, the main thing I felt was missing was a proper education on how to negotiate.

I recently attended a course ran by a renowned negotiation consultancy, and at 27, was the youngest person in the room. The surprising thing we uncovered, was that the 7 of us in attendance were collectively responsible for over £600m of company spend, with a grand total of 13 days negotiation training between us!

If I could go back in time

The advice I’d give myself is to read up on negotiation. Don’t underestimate how powerful a good negotiator can be. Question yourself, do you really know how to negotiate? You’ve probably done it a little bit - haggling with a network provider over a phone agreement or bartering with a market trader on holiday for a keepsake. But did you enjoy it (hopefully yes)? Understand that it will differ in the workplace. There are many more variables and a lot more at stake, for you and your organisation.

What advice I’d give employers

To a prospective employer my viewpoint is simple. Invest in proper negotiation training for your graduates. The impact to your organisation can be significant. The impact on a graduate is likely to be even greater. They won’t have had the chance to build any “bad habits” and being smart, educated people keen to learn they’d be able to put those skills into practice very quickly, which ultimately aids the mission of any procurement organisation of maximising value.”

David Farquharson – Sky Marketing Procurement Manager

Graduate schemes can be extremely valuable, and I believe you can get as much out of them as you want.

Don’t be afraid to take calculated risks and to stretch yourself out of your comfort zone, whether this is pushing for a new area of interest, working in a new business area or a large project, as it is this which will see you exponentially grow as a young professional.

For myself, there wasn’t an opportunity of an international rotation. I built a business case, socialised with the leadership and gained the support which led me to take the first international procurement secondment with a 6-month stint in Germany.

Organisations should be flexible and give as much opportunity to develop grads, and to try and prevent limitations simply due the word “graduate” in a title.

One of the most appreciated experiences of my grad scheme was the opportunity of exposure to multiple business areas and the different professionals within those areas; shadowing and informal mentoring from different team members and their differing styles allows you to pick up a variety of great skills.

People on graduate schemes need to be brave in expanding their role & responsibilities, whilst simultaneously organisations need to give them the trust and freedom to do so.”

In summary

The evidence is clear that graduate schemes offer an excellent introduction to procurement but graduates need to ensure they leverage the opportunity as much as possible to really develop their skills. Whether this is pushing for an international rotation like David or whether it is pushing for your employer to offer additional training, like Liam would do if he had his time again.

Organisations could also benefit from discussing ideas with people who have completed their graduate schemes, given that they will have the hindsight of being able to tell them the skills they wish they had developed. This information can be then used to further improve their existing graduate schemes to suit the next generation of grads.

If you are currently running a graduate scheme or currently undertaking one, get in touch to learn more about how Investigo could support you in the future.