Supply Chain Sustainability School: The next five years

Regular readers of my blog will know that I am passionate about the idea that competitive and competent supply chains don’t just happen, they need to be developed.

I am proud of my role in the Supply Chain School and pleased to report that we unveiled a five year vision for the school recently as it approaches its fourth anniversary.

The challenge to mature an organisation from exciting initiative to an established part of an industry is significant and we spent three months consulting with our 40 plus partners and more than 11,000 members on various aspects of the school to come up with something meaningful. This is no longer a handful of people in a room kicking round a few ideas.

Our headline statement is: “The world class collaboration to enable a sustainable built environment”. This is a very broad statement, emphasising that there is a wealth of knowledge and skills required to achieve this. To make more sense of it we broke our vision down into eight specific areas of focus:

  • Subject matter. “We will provide learning content that builds skills to deliver a sustainable built environment”. This makes reference to the “end game” in the vision but recognises the breadth of content we have now and need to develop in the future. The school currently has over 1,000 carefully selected resources but there is much more to come
  • Target audience. “We will deliver a school free at the point of use for anybody who works in, or may aspire to work in, the built environment sector”. There are several important words here, the first of which is “free”. Partners are fed up with initiatives that add cost to their supply chains and add little value. They are prepared to fund the school and deliver it free of charge. The word “aspire” is important too. If more than 11,000 people are engaged in learning through the school what about the thousands of people in universities and further education establishments? The word “anyone” is important too. Up to now our work has focused on management and professional staff but our ground breaking work on Fairness, Inclusion and Respect has delivered toolbox talk material for trades people and operatives. There will be more examples of this in the future. Big audience to reach.
  • Accreditation. “We will offer CPD accredited learning where appropriate and learning that contributes to professional qualifications. We will recognise members’ effective participation in the school and work with the industry to promote recognition of school members”. We gave thought to developing the School into a professional institution in its own right but this would overlap excellent work being done by a variety of existing bodies. We need to reach out to those organisations and deliver learning accredited by them.
  • New knowledge. “We will engage with industry, academia and research organisations to instigate and seed fund new research that can be translated into School learning content in the future”. When I started the Horizon Group with professor Jacqui Glass I used resources from my own social enterprise to fund it. It was too far out on the perimeter to ask partners to fund. It has been difficult to engage partners and academics to work together but we now have a number of collaborative projects underway and we expect to have many more to feed new research based knowledge into the school in the longer term.
  • Leadership. “We will establish the school as the centre of excellence with respect to developing supply chains to deliver a sustainable built environment”. With over 40 partners including 19 of the top 20 construction contractors in the UK, the school has earned the right to be an opinion former. Through our special interest groups we are working on new and emerging issues for the industry to achieve a consistent message. Our work on modern slavery, performance measurement and social value are good examples of this.
  • Geographic reach. “We will seek global best practice to reach partners’ supply chains across the UK and outside the UK where appropriate”. While we have franchised a school in Australia and continue to explore opportunities to do this, the school is essentially a UK initiative. However, we need to recognise that partners multi-tiered supply chains are not only in the UK, we need to develop learning content suitable for a global supply chain.
  • Partners. “We will seek partners who share the values of the school and who commit to share knowledge, contribute financially and in kind”. This leads to an interesting question; what are the values of the school? Another piece of work to be done but we definitely want partners who share them.
  • Funding. “We will fund the school from partner contributions, franchise fees and appropriate sources of government or industry funding. We will not ask members for money or allow commercial sponsorship of our learning content or activities”. The question “who pays” always needs to be addressed. With a budget in excess of £1m in the coming year we can make a big difference without needing to resort to breaking our commitment to members to deliver services free of charge or resorting to overt commercialisation.

I was delighted to chair the School AGM recently where this vision was presented to our partners. The next five years will prove to be inspirational and exciting I have no doubt.

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