Bishop Wilkinson Catholic Education Trust's initiative creates almost 300 jobs

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The Trust to invest £12 million in four-year minor works contracts. The first-of-its-kind compliant initiative has secured over £1.2 million in social value commitment, creating jobs and training programmes.

To optimise and streamline the process of compliantly procuring minor works contracts, Bishop Wilkinson Catholic Education Trust (BWCET) developed a unique and innovative approach to appoint general building, roofing, mechanical and electrical contractors as part of the Trust’s estate strategy for the next four years.

With a total investment of circa £12 million, the aim of this ground-breaking initiative was three-fold; firstly to move focus to delivery of projects across the full school year, removing the need to procure at a project level; secondly to ensure best value through a robust ‘rate-card’ approach to pricing and by appointing contractors to work with us to formulate the most cost and time efficient works programmes and thirdly to secure local support, creating meaningful and lasting social value opportunities, including employment opportunities.

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This minor works programme is the first in the UK education sector to be created through a ‘robustly compliant’ process ensuring all statutory obligations are fully met. Securing over £1.2 million in social value commitment, the initiative will enhance the regional economy by working with local providers including SMEs and creating 271 employment and training opportunities. This breaks down to approaching 20 new FTE jobs, almost 30 apprenticeships and over 220 flexible employment opportunities and work experience placements.

Nick Hurn OBE, CEO of the Trust and Louise Levy, COO of the Trust with the suppliersNick Hurn OBE, CEO of the Trust and Louise Levy, COO of the Trust with the suppliers
Nick Hurn OBE, CEO of the Trust and Louise Levy, COO of the Trust with the suppliers

The appointed providers will also deliver almost 150 days of training opportunities to benefit students at the Trust’s schools, with more than 230 hours of learning interventions, working with subject departments to support the curriculum; nearly 50 days of construction sector awareness training and 64 days of career guidance and mentorship programmes. This training provides students with invaluable transferable skills for their future pathways.

Historically, the Trust spent significant amounts of time procuring standalone projects, with capacity uncertainty and lack of commitment from suppliers, as well as challenging market conditions in the North East construction sector. The seasonal focus of educational construction projects further compounds these challenges, with peak demand during holiday periods.

Furthermore, traditional project-focused activities have limited the ability to identify and implement supply chain improvements in design and cost, alongside a notable lack of innovation in design and build practices. These challenges have hindered the development of a forward-looking estates strategy essential for sustainable improvements and decarbonisation.

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In response, Education Commercial Services (ECS), the Trust’s commercial arm, has pioneered a robustly compliant and proactive approach, which can be replicated for other Trusts. Through its independent advice and education sector expertise, ECS not only supports BWCET but actively supports numerous Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs) across the country.

The services of six providers have been secured to deliver the scheme - MJ Quinn, Odin Services, Able Construction, T Manners & Sons, Hodgson Sayers and John Flowers. All suppliers went through a rigorous evaluation process, as part of the procurement, for both quality and cost to ensure the highest standards and best practice and has enabled the Trust to move ahead at pace.

The tender process, managed independently by ECS, has resulted in the appointment of contractors via a further competition process under a Dynamic Purchasing System (DPS) set up by the Trust for Sustainable and ethically sourced works. The DPS was specifically established to help the Trust and others find a streamlined compliant route to market for smaller players. This process ensures a focus on decarbonisation, energy efficiency, estate management and biodiversity in line with the Trust’s commitment to sustainability, high-quality, ethical sourcing and delivering social value in local communities.

Nick Hurn OBE, CEO of BWCET, stated: “This innovative and strategic approach not only addresses the operational challenges we have faced, but also significantly enhances the social value we bring to our community. We are excited about the positive impact this will have on our schools and the local economy. Our minor works programme and ECS is a game changer in this sector enabling MATs to be proactive in procurement, creating a forward pipeline, improving supply chain sustainability, cost savings and speed of delivery.”

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Louise Levy, COO of BWCET, added: “We have intentionally focused on delivering a robust, compliant approach which ensures we are not only improving our estate management and securing best value but also supporting regional job growth and providing valuable opportunities for apprenticeships and training for our students. We value the engagement from the regional business community in making this process a success.”

This initiative is part of the Trust’s broader estate strategy, which includes market engagement events to gain insights from the construction sector. This approach is designed to be a model for other Trusts receiving annual School Condition Allocation (SCA) funding, promoting a streamlined, compliant route to market for smaller players.

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