Ed Miliband pledges to create an extra 80,000 new high quality apprenticeships by the end of the next parliament. The Conservatives commit to creating 3 million apprentices by 2020. Companies bidding for major government contracts will play a key role in delivering this, and would be required to offer apprenticeships under contractual agreements.
Contractors working on large infrastructure jobs, particularly in London, have a good track record of taking on apprentices as part of their works. Apprenticeships are either taken on by the main contractor or subcontractors depending on their operating model.
Since the Greater London Authority introduced their Responsible Procurement Policy in 2006, thousands ofapprenticeships have been created. On TfL contracts alone, 3,600 apprenticeships have been created at 100 of their suppliers since 2009.
Over time, the policy has become easier to sell to officers, politicians and industry as a strong body of practice and evidence builds around the benefits. It's even getting international notoriety. In 2013, I brought a visiting delegation of municipal Mayors and leaders from the Czech Republic to meet GLA bodies to learn from their Responsible Procurement experiences.
But it's not only about apprenticeships, Responsible Procurement can be used to help the unemployed into jobs and training and to open up supply opportunities to small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) – all vote winning headlines.
On the SME front, CompeteFor, an online portal advertising supply chain opportunities and a legacy of London 2012, is raising awareness of contracts created as a result of public investment. Contractors are required to advertise on CompeteFor as part of their contract with the GLA body. Over 11,000 contracts worth an estimated £3billion have been awarded as a result of the portal, and 75% of these were awarded to SMEs.
Next month contractors and procurers will gather at Olympia London for the 2015 CompeteFor Summit & Procurex South events, where an audience of local businesses and SME's will have a chance to network with buyers, and hear about ways to increase their chances of landing contracts coming out of the public sector and big infrastructure jobs such as the Northern Line Extension and Thames Tideway Tunnel.
From a contractor's perspective, there's no real hardship in doing Responsible Procurement. It's in their interest to invest in building a skilled workforce and a diverse supply chain. So whether the apprentice's figures are 80,000 or 3 million bring it on!
If you're an SME and are interested in attending the events I mentioned, see links below.