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Finding a career that is exciting, interesting and inspiring is not easy. However, one option open to graduates is a career in central government procurement. Michael Dunning from the Office of Government Commerce discusses one of the routes in to the public sector.

Procurement is one of the most important elements in helping to deliver public services. Around £175 billion a year is spent in the UK by the public sector buying goods and services, which means that the impact of procurement on everybody is enormous. Nevertheless, despite its huge importance, relatively little has been known about central government procurement as a career option; but this is changing.

There are a number of paths that graduates can take if they want a career in central government procurement. One of these is the Government Procurement Graduate Scheme (GPGS) that was launched in April 2007 and for which its third cohort of graduates will be taking up post in September 2009. The GPGS is led by the Government Procurement Service (GPS) in the OGC.

This year’s campaign has centred on the concept that Government procurement is unique in its scale and variety with the strap line No one does procurement on quite the same scale. Clearly this is a message that is getting through, with a 267% increase in applications in 2009 from graduates interested in a procurement career in government compared to last year.

The GPGS is a two year learning & development graduate scheme providing participants with a solid foundation for a commercial career in government. There are two main elements of the scheme – formal professional training and exposure to different types of work experience. In the first year the trainees study for the Certificate of Competence in Purchasing and Supply and in the second year the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply (CIPS) Graduate Diploma. During the two years the trainees will rotate within their Department to gain a wider understanding of the entire procurement life cycle and how it is implemented in their organisation. At the end of the two year scheme a further year’s work experience will entitle holders to qualify for full membership of CIPS. Scheme members have a good chance of progression in government procurement and are supported by being awarded access to master classes and work experience placements not usually readily available.

Commenting on the scheme, OGC CEO and Head of the GPS Nigel Smith said:

‘This scheme brings in additional talent to join the large group of procurement professionals already operating across the public sector, who are delivering on the Government’s agenda to transform the way in which it handles procurement.’

‘This initiative represents a significant investment in the future of the GPS and demonstrates a commitment to learning and development in the service. I am committed to investing in this graduate programme as one of a number of initiatives to create a sustainable balance of appropriately skilled and suitably managed procurement professionals, to match the growing scale and complexity of the Government’s delivery agenda.’

The first cohort of graduates will complete the programme this year and have been involved in a wide variety of projects: from helping rollout a new online portal for advertising all Olympic Delivery Authority contract opportunities, to helping procure the new identity card and passport using the European Union ‘competitive dialogue’ procurement process.

The GPGS scheme is one of a number of options for graduates who aspire to a career in government procurement. The Ministry of Defence administers a Business Graduate Scheme and the Department for Work and Pensions use the Procurement Management Development Scheme to recruit new talent into this fast growing government profession.

The GPS are also promoting procurement and commercial management roles to high flyer Cabinet Office Fast Stream participants through the Fast Stream Procurement Placement Option. The aim of the Fast Stream Procurement Option is to equip future Senior Civil Servants with an early awareness and understanding of the importance and complexity of procurement. For some, it is hoped that it will lead to a move into senior commercial roles in government.

The options for graduates to move into government procurement are clearly growing and starting out on such a career is an exciting challenge that involves making decisions that are crucial to the delivery of vital public services. Additionally, the procurement profession in central government are looking to establish and provide designated career paths that offer access to a broad range of opportunities and a defined progression route. This will help all new entrants and existing professionals to plan and meet medium and longer term career aspirations and identify the most beneficial development options for their professional needs. Through a package of guidance, suggested routes of support and career planning tools, this new framework not only benefits the individual, it also builds greater procurement professionalism and capacity in central government.

It is evident now that procurement is playing an increasingly significant role in the government’s programme for delivering value for money public services. The OGC has been tasked with driving up standards and procurement capability across central government. Anyone embarking on a career in procurement will find themselves at the centre of this exciting and challenging agenda and taking part in the key decisions of the future for instance building schools, hospitals and other major projects such as the 2012 Olympics.

About the Author

  • About Michael Dunning: Michael Dunning works for the Office of Government Commerce.

Michael Dunning

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