Scotland aims for 500 procurement apprenticeships to tackle skills shortage

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
5 May 2015

Skills Development Scotland (SDS) is aiming to introduce 500 modern apprenticeships (MAs) in procurement and supply chain over the next three years.

SDS launched 30 procurement MAs in August last year, including one in its own purchasing team, and said the work was necessary to bridge a skills gap in the profession.

Tom Wilson, head of procurement at SDS, said 60 per cent of buyers in the NHS in Scotland were aged over 55. “Where is the pipeline coming from, where is the youth?” he said.

“The modern apprenticeship in procurement and supply chain is allowing young people to come straight into the workplace and earn and learn.”

The work saw SDS win the Government Opportunities Procurement Leadership of the Year Award in February.

Wilson said there was a target to introduce 25,000 MAs each year, which SDS has consistently exceeded, and this was going to increase to 30,000 in 2020.

SDS, which was launched by the Scottish Government six years ago and provides training programmes and careers advice, has an annual spend of £130 million, with £100 million spent on commissioning services and indirect spend of £30 million.

As a result of the Procurement Reform (Scotland) Act 2014, which includes a “sustainable procurement duty”, last year SDS introduced a new responsible and sustainable procurement strategy.

Wilson, who heads an eight-strong team of buyers and two lawyers, said procurement was about considering the “triple bottom line” of impacts on the economy, environment and the community.

“The thing about procurement, I don’t think of it being about nickels and dimes,” he said. “What’s important about responsible and sustainable procurement is looking at the triple bottom line of CSR.”

In 2011-12 SDS spent £200,000 with third sector organisations, but in 2014-15 this rocketed to £12 million, said Wilson. He also said 85 per cent of spend on services went to Scottish SMEs.

SDS has also managed to make savings of £1.08 million in 2014-15 and £1.3 million in 2013-14 on its indirect spend. Savings of £220,000 were achieved on print and copier services and £600,000 was saved from SDS’s call centre budget by improving call handling times.

“These savings are robust, auditable savings,” said Wilson. “Seventy per cent of savings claimed in public sector business cases are not actually realised. We’ve all seen instances of when grand claims are made but they’re not actually realised. We only claim realised savings.”

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