Procurement perspectives: a procurement career pursuit is worth it

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StephenBauld_100.jpgIrrespective of what you think about the way in which private- and public-sector procurement is conducted, the ultimate objective is the same. Creating 'value for money' is the most commonly used term among purchasing individuals.

Government procurement expert, Stephen Bauld, has spent half his career working with private-sector organisations and the other half working with various government agencies. He has come to realise that all procurement people strive to get the best deal that adheres to the policies and procedures of the organisation that they work for. In this month's SmartProcurement, Bauld takes a closer look at a career in procurement.

Supply chain management is one of the fastest growing professions that you would ever want to be involved with. Every day is different and unique in both sectors. When I was starting out in procurement in the early 1970s, it was viewed as more of a clerical position, for the most part, a paper pusher.

Over the years, I have met some extraordinary people from every sector, including construction, goods and services vendors, sub-contractors, consultants and every possible group of people that would intersect with the purchasing function.

I want to point out that throughout all of my years working in procurement, most people I have met are very hardworking and dedicated to getting the best price for their companies or the government agencies that employ them.

The reason I say public and private sector both have the same objectives is because, excluding the policies and procedures of government, it is the exact same job. Working with requests for proposals (RFPs), requests for quotations (RFQs) and requests for information (RFIs) is virtually identical in every procurement sector.

I do not ever see myself retiring from this profession, because I have never felt that this is a job, but more like a new exciting challenge to take part in every day. Most procurement people I speak with during my travels feel the same way. To be able to make a difference and be involved with so many aspects of a business or government is truly a wonderful opportunity.

Most columns I write each week are about the different nuances of the procurement process. I rarely, if ever, talk about the people behind the hundreds of millions of dollars in procurement decisions that are made daily across North America.

When most people talk about leadership in the working environment, they always maintain that people are the bedrock of any company. The purchasing department can potentially save a substantial amount of money that directly goes to the bottom line in relation to any other department in an organisation.

In modern-day organisations, the purchasing department maintains an equal role on the senior management team. With the most successful Fortune 100 companies putting as much emphasis on procurement as they historically have on the sales function.

The procurement training programmes available at colleges and universities at the present time are on par with any other professional career that a young person would consider after finishing high school. Supply chain management has more job opportunities currently than they have qualified people to fill them.

When you look at all the government and private-sector purchasing jobs in Canada, it is one of the highest growing fields of employment for young people starting out. With practical experience over the years, a purchasing manager can make a very good living and, ultimately, be involved in every aspect of business operations.

In all my travels over four decades, I have rarely met anyone who went into the purchasing profession and later decided to change to another career after they had developed a solid understanding of the tremendous opportunities that the procurement field can offer.

Therefore, when your son or daughter is about to finish high school and thinking of what to take on after graduation, keep the purchasing option open for some serious consideration.

Stephen Bauld is a government procurement expert and can be reached at swbauld@purchasingci.com. Some of his columns may contain excerpts from The Municipal Procurement Handbook published by Butterworths.

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