Commercial Awareness Week – Insight into commercial apprenticeships
This week marks the beginning of Commercial Awareness Week – a pan-government initiative to raise the awareness and consideration of the impact that commercial has on how we deliver our services.
The NHS Business Services Authority's (NHSBA) Commercial Team forms part of the wider Government Commercial Function – a cross-government network consisting of around 4,000 colleagues.
One of the levers in the NHSBSA Strategy for 2019-22 is 'Strategic Sourcing'. Our key focus in the Commercial Team is to take the time to understand the organisation’s needs in order for us to provide the support that is required to maximise value for money for the public purse and seek to secure the very best outcomes from our external suppliers.
To commemorate the week, four of our colleagues have written about their experience of undertaking an apprenticeship with the Commercial Team within the NHSBSA.
Meet the team
- I’m Andrew Reid and I’m an IT Commercial Officer. My role involves putting contracts in place and also managing them once they are live.
- I’m Laura Heal and I’m a Contract Manager for the Healthy Food Scheme, a service provided by the NHSBSA.
- I’m Michelle Royce and I’m a Commercial Apprentice covering Citizen & Corporate Service. Predominantly, I support the NHSBSA’s Category Managers with their procurements.
- I’m Thawheeda Khan and I’m a Commercial Apprentice covering Digital Services and Primary Care.
The qualification we’re working towards is a Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply (CIPS) Level 4 Diploma in Procurement and Supply, and even though our roles differ from each other, the course is helping us gain a better understanding of our work at the NHSBSA.
We’re grateful for the opportunity to do this course as it will help us progress in our respective areas. Gaining this qualification through an apprenticeship also means we’re in a supportive and structured environment, ideal for achieving our goals.
The main reason we’re all doing the apprenticeship is for career advancement and it means something a little different for each of us.
My background is in managing contracts with suppliers once they are in place and making sure the NHSBSA gets the right value for what it pays for. Before starting the apprenticeship, I didn’t have any exposure to procurements (where suppliers are actually selected and prices/terms agreed). The apprenticeship has helped me learn the theory behind all areas of the contract lifecycle and also gain practical experience of it. Consequently, my role has now broadened and I am now responsible for running various procurements.
As a Contract Manager I historically have not had much involvement in the procurement part of the contract lifecycle, so completing the CIPS qualification is allowing me to develop knowledge and skills in procurement which will support my contract management role.
The apprenticeship is also helping me round out my understanding of different approaches in procurement, through working with my course mates from organisations across the private and public sectors.
I left an industry I had worked in for 18 years and accepting this apprenticeship means I can re-train and gain valuable experience while working towards earning a nationally recognised qualification.
I already have a law degree and a postgraduate Diploma in Legal Practice. Gaining this qualification will add to this knowledge, making me better equipped to carry out the various tasks required of procurement staff. I am currently working on my 1st tender and can attest to the fact the course is already helping me carry out this process.
Getting rid of the stigma
Just a side note for those who want to progress their career but think an apprenticeship would not be open to them, or that it could be seen as taking a step back in your career; They are not just for teenagers! Our ages range from 25-34. Not all apprenticeships have age limits and you’re never too old to learn.
Gaining our CIPS qualifications through an apprenticeship means we benefit from having knowledgeable, experienced mentors who are available for us to ask questions (sometimes incessantly!). You don’t always have that when you go it alone.