With local authorities spending around £45bn per annum on goods and services, public procurement has the potential to act as a valuable tool to tackle poverty and promote social mobility. Birmingham City Council (BCC) has long recognised this potential, introducing its Public Procurement Framework for Jobs and Skills (PPFJS) in 2010 to harness the power of its procurement in order to tackle worklessness and improve skills in the city; creating employment and training opportunities for local people, particularly those living in deprived areas.
PPFJS is now part of the Birmingham Business Charter for Social Responsibility – a set of guiding principles for how BCC, its contractors and partners go about business. The Framework requires that all contracts worth more than £200k per annum include community benefits, either through contract clauses, voluntary agreements or a charter.
Crucially, the Framework also includes a formal requirement to engage with BCC’s Employment and Skills Service, which offers support to procurement teams in devising contract clauses, evaluating tenders and negotiating targets and assistance to contractors during the recruitment process, and in monitoring and evaluating outcomes.
PPFJS has been implemented across a number of large-scale projects, including the Library of Birmingham and Birmingham Gateway projects. The Framework has also been embedded within the Constructing West Midlands Framework, which by the end of December 2015 had delivered 223 jobs for new entrant trainees, 78 apprenticeships and over 60 work placements.
“I am delighted the council is using its influence in this way to capture jobs and training opportunities for local people. There is much more that government could do in this regard and we want our successful approach to become the norm, not the stand-out example.” Councillor John Clancy, Leader of Birmingham City Council
Aspirations and objectives
In 2010, Birmingham City Council (BCC) implemented a Procurement Policy Framework for Jobs and Skills (PPFJS) to deliver community benefits through its major goods and services contracts.
Now part of the wider Birmingham Business Charter for Social Responsibility, the Framework uses the Council’s influence to create employment and training opportunities for local residents, especially those in target areas and including those with disabilities.
For all contracts worth more than £200k p.a. PPFJS requires procurement teams to engage contractors in the jobs and skills agenda through contract clauses, voluntary agreements or a charter, and to consider community benefits in the award of the contract. BCC established a specialist Employment and Skills Service to assist procurement teams in devising appropriate contract clauses, evaluating tenders, negotiating targets and monitoring and evaluating outcomes.
Crucially, once the contract is awarded, the Employment and Skills Service is able to work with contractors to support them during the recruitment process; assigning a dedicated officer to major contracts who is able to act as a project manager, coordinating a multi-agency response to the complex needs of these projects.
Outcomes and impact
BCC has a long track record working with employers in targeted recruitment. In 2009/10 the Council included jobs and skills requirements as contract conditions in the new £193m Library of Birmingham project, which went on to deliver 226 jobs and 82 apprenticeships for residents of deprived neighbourhoods.
Similarly, the development of Birmingham Gateway saw Network Rail – the lead contractor for the project – agree a Charter for Jobs and Skills with BCC that delivered 325 construction jobs for Birmingham residents and over 100 apprenticeships for unemployed people.
PPFJS has also been implemented in the Constructing West Midlands Framework, where bidders are required to submit a Targeted Recruitment and Training and Supply-Chain Opportunities Method Statement that will deliver targets for paid employment for new entrant trainees. By December 2015, 12,172 person-weeks had been achieved through 223 jobs, 78 apprenticeships and over 60 work placements.
The Constructing WM Framework has so far delivered*:
- 12,172 person-weeks of paid employment and 223 jobs created for new entrant trainees.
- 78 apprenticeships and 60+ work placements.
* Up to December 2015
“While embedding social value within contract clauses lays the underpinnings for us to deliver community benefits, the real point of difference has been the ability of the Employment and Skills Service to offer a managed recruitment solution tailored to the needs of contractors. Being able to assign officers to support major projects has helped to give real focus to the jobs and skills agenda and maximize the impact of contract opportunities on deprived communities in the city.
Making it policy and making it clear, the approach is here to stay... This requires staff awareness and training, and BCC produced an online toolkit to guide officers in its implementation. From the contractor’s perspective, ensuring and enabling the celebration of success is vital – for PR purposes, but also to support them in securing other allocations through the Framework and contracts elsewhere.
It is challenging to offer this kind of in-depth support in the current fiscal climate. We have forged a close working relationship with partners such as the Department of Work and Pensions and Marketing Birmingham to pool our knowledge of jobs coming on stream in the city – helping to join up our service offer and leverage the support of 100+ community-based employment support organisations, training providers and further education colleges.” Steve Farr, Employment and Skills Manager, BCC