Procurement frameworks have, for very good reason, climbed the construction industry agenda over the course of the past five years and with them have come a very distinct set of industry standards when it comes to procurement, local impact, supply chain management and partnership working.
Wates has just passed its three year mark as contracting partner on the East Midlands Property Alliance (empa) Provincial (£500k-£7.5m) and Intermediate Upper (£2m-£7,5m) frameworks and so it feels a fitting time to reflect on what has been achieved during this time, how we’ve worked together to develop best practice amongst our partners and how we can take this forward for the good of the industry – and our clients.
One of the best things about the empa framework is the forum it creates for contractors to work together to find the most effective and most efficient ways of doing things. For example, we join together to hold partnered Meet the Buyer events that connect us with a really valuable network of local suppliers and sub-contractors, through which we ensure our supply chain is local and that we provide more choice of local sub-contractors for our clients. As well as being a framework commitment, having a local supply chain is something that Wates looks to adopt as much as possible, which means we often exceed our local spend Key Performance Indicators. For example, our recent completion of Wolsey House Primary School on behalf of Leicester City Council came with an 85.6% supply chain spend within a 40-mile radius of the project, exceeding our target of 75%.
As public sector organisations, our clients need to know the extent of the value their investments are bringing for local people and by engaging with businesses with postcodes that are local to our projects we ensure that money is re-injected back into the local economy and this leads to growing numbers of training and employment opportunities.
An excellent case study on how this can be achieved is our project at Space 2, a new art and culture centre for Nottingham City Council. Aside from being a fascinating heritage restoration of a former hosiery factory, the £7.7m project brought with it 20 new jobs, over 120 apprentice weeks within a 76-week build programme and a 76% supply chain spend within 20 miles of the development.
A very important part of this project was also our understanding of Nottingham City Council’s needs. As a core part of the city’s Creative Quarter, Space 2 is a vital investment for the council and so getting under the skin of the project was about much more than the build. This is where being a ‘contracting partner’ comes in. Through the empa framework, new building projects become collaborative, which results in increased efficiency and value for money.
One area of particular success of the past couple of years is the impact that our work with empa has had on local training. I am part of Nottingham City Council’s N2 Skills & Employment Board and that’s a great way to use our work with empa to help push the important issue of skills training. Alongside this are the great strides we’re making to attract more women into the construction industry through the empa team’s female ambassadors. I think I can speak for all involved in the empa network when I say that using our work to affect industry change and push for higher industry standards has been incredibly rewarding. Our efforts to fulfil this commitment, alongside our pledge to be a responsible neighbour, also saw us recently receive six awards from the Considerate Constructors Scheme for our empa projects. These include two silver awards for the waste vehicle depot for Blaby District Council and the new Wellingborough Crematorium, and gold for our construction of the new Discovery Academy in Warwickshire.
Of course it’s crucial that we take this best practice forward and continue to build upon it. Understanding local markets and the needs of our public sector clients in the East Midlands has not only been of value in accommodating their needs, but it also gives us the tools to do our job in the best way possible. Understanding local supply chains is vital for our procurement, understanding local school networks is vital for our engagement with young people and understanding local job markets enables us to use our work to help address any gaps. Our public sector clients in the East Midlands are the bridge to this understanding, and there in lies the real beauty of framework procurement. Partnership working is the key to sharing knowledge and that’s such a valuable thing.”
(Alistair McCallum is Regional Business Director for the SCAPE Major Works framework)