An investigation into talent shortages in the Australian procurement profession

John Hopkins, Amrik Sohal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: Whilst the role that procurement plays in today’s organisations is becoming increasingly strategic, recruitment into the discipline in Australia remains a significant challenge, and this has led to a serious ongoing skills shortage. By combining the findings from an online survey of Australian practitioners, with a set of face-to-face interviews with procurement recruitment specialists, the purpose of this paper is to establish a set of possible reasons for the skills shortage, before making suggestions as to how this shortage may be addressed. Design/methodology/approach: This empirical study combines the findings from an online practitioner survey with structured interviews with recruitment age]ncies. Mixed method approaches like this give researchers an opportunity to combine different research design elements, from individual mono-methods, in an attempt to address research questions in a more detailed manner. Findings: The procurement professionals participating in the online survey underlined an ability to manage relationships, working effectively with individuals and teams/groups, managing risk, legal knowledge and an understanding of how procurement connects with the other disciplines within an organisation, as being the most critical skills needed by a procurement professional. With no direct pathway into this profession from higher education, the recruitment agencies intimated that finding graduates who were trained and prepared for this career was challenging, in an area where young skilled professionals are direly needed. Interestingly, whilst a number of practitioners indicated a “lack of professional experience/workplace awareness” as being a barrier to graduate employment in this profession, when asked whether the organisation they worked for had a graduate programme, internship or co-op programme that places students within the workplace, only 30 per cent of those questioned confirmed that they did. Research limitations/implications: These findings extend the existing body of literature, identify a number of gaps and underline the need for continued research into this strategically significant profession. Practical implications: The results are of great significance to universities and other degree-awarding higher education institutions, highlighting a demand for skilled graduates in an area that is not currently serviced by existing educational packages, presenting a possible future market opportunity. There are additional implications for human resource managers, practitioners and policy makers, and this research raises awareness of the need for change. Originality/value: The procurement discipline is attracting an increasing level of academic interest, but there are a lack of studies exploring the reasons behind the talent issues experienced by firms recruiting into this discipline. This paper directly addresses the talent shortage and is the first research to discuss that the lack of a clear career pathway between higher education, and the procurement profession, might be one of the key factors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)571-587
Number of pages17
JournalHigher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Australia
  • Purchasing

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