Diversity in the Supply Chain at the House of Commons

BPIC Network, alongside the House of Commons, Wates Group and Parliament’s Northern Estate Programme, presented a webinar covering diversity in the supply chain. This was in a bid to raise awareness of supplier opportunities at Parliament with a focus on the Northern Estate Programme and support Parliament’s aspirations to increase supplier diversity.

Diversity within the supply chain is fast becoming a key component to project procurement, showcasing, and supporting small businesses building communities. Improving diversity will ensure there is representation across the infrastructure building.

Notable speakers from Wates, Parliament and the Confederation of British Industry showcased the work they’re carrying out and opportunities available, as well as discussing how we can all work together to improve our industry.

What the panellists had to say

Jennifer Crook – Director of Operations – In-House Service and Estate – House of Commons

Jennifer shared that over the years, Parliament’s buildings have been the cutting edge of design and innovation. “As today’s custodians to these buildings, we are privileged to continue the work of some of the nation’s great engineers, designers and craftspeople,” she said.

There are several big projects underway, which include:

  • The Palace of Westminster
  • Elizabeth Tower
  • Westminster Hall
  • Northern Estate

These are very big projects for which there will be a much-needed diverse range of skills and experiences – from stone carvers to solar panel specialists, and asbestos disposal to accessibility experts. Some of the work is underway now, others in the next months and years. It is an important time to raise awareness of the work at Parliament and the opportunities for individuals and firms to get involved from diverse skilled backgrounds.
Jennifer also shared that “at the House of Commons, we aim to provide a positive, inclusive working environment where people are valued for the skills and experience that they bring to work”.

She pointed out that 24% of employees in the House of Commons are from a BAME background. In In-House Services and Estates, it is 32%. “The aim is to make Parliament more accessible, diverse and free from discrimination” and “this will continue with our Diversity and Inclusion Strategy for which we have set targets for BAME representation”.

Jim Rickleton – Wates Group

Wates, one of the main contractors to the work at Northern Estate, provided an update on the large programme of works, which consists of several internal and external refurbishment of Grade II* listed buildings. A number of these buildings have not been refurbished in over 40 years, and major works to the roof and services are underway, as well as creating accessibility.

Wates was keen to stress that it looks for skills across all diverse backgrounds and that it has set out clear guidance on how to register to “Working with Wates at NEP”.

Tim Miller – (CBI) Senior Sector Adviser – Construction & House

CBI was formed in 1965 and is one of the UK’s largest business lobbying groups. Its policies for construction are to represent the sector on macro-economic and political issues, improve the financial environment for businesses in the UK construction industry, procurement and investment, and improve the reputation of the industry.

The key focus for the CBI is supporting minority-owned businesses. Tim said, “We are supporting every business by creating networking and learning forums for supply chain firms… We are also ensuring diversity within policymaking.” The CBI is committed to ensuring that there is awareness and support in this area.

Michelle Searle – Social Value Manager – Westminster County Council

Michelle said: “WCC is keen to ensure that the ability to procure work from minority business has key focus… There are grants available, which the diverse supply chain needs to ensure that they are aware of.”

Understanding supply chain diversity

The webinar was very enlightening, with more than 200 people attending the online event. The Q&A session raised a number of questions as to why a number of large projects aren’t being awarded to diverse supply chains, and what is being done to encourage contractors to work with minority businesses.

It appears that while larger organisations state there is a commitment to comply with Diversity Inclusion, the percentages do not reflect this. A number of contractors are still not opening the net to allow skills from diverse backgrounds onto lucrative construction projects.

“This was a great discussion topic to listen to the challenges that exist within the construction supply chain,” says Carol Massay, CEO of EasyBuild UK. “I was not aware that such challenges exist – especially within a sector that is struggling to recruit graduates. With the need to regenerate across the UK, and build housing stock, the time frames could be shortened if the net is widened and our supply chain is more inclusive.”

What is supply chain diversity?

Simply put, supply chain diversity is the broadening of the range of companies you work with to increase choice and flexibility. It improves innovation as different cultures collaborate, saves money and enhances quality of service.

To diversify your supply chain, you need to broaden your horizons. Network through organisations and trade bodies that represent minority-owned businesses, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Collaboration is key, after all.

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