About GeM for Work Based Learning

GeM for Work Based Learning is the first Generic eMarketplace (or GeM) for the Work Based Learning sector to promote better purchasing, this initiative is being led by JISC Advance. JISC Advance is a major provider of educational advisory services throughout the United Kingdom. The organisation is a not-for-profit organisation financed by the UK funding councils for further and higher education.

In late 2011 JISC Advance received funding from BIS Department to undertake a project with the work based learning sector. The project is now established with three target strands of work:

  1. To establish consortium-based procurement practice for work based learning providers.
  2. To provide an electronic market place to access consortia pricing.
  3. To negotiate specific contracts for educational items with a high spend.

These strands have the potential to generate savings as purchases in this sector are at present largely ad hoc with only a very small proportion of transactions being routed through any procurement consortia. The total value of these purchases, by independent training providers in the United Kingdom, we estimate to be at least £170 million per year.  From of our spend analysis work we have identified the following areas as the typical high spend items for these, with our estimated annual total spend being at least:

  • Awarding Organisations £22million
  • Energy £17million
  • Print and copying £8million
  • IT Hardware and Support £8million
  • Telephones/communications £8 million
  • Specialist (by curriculum)materials and equipment £5million
  • Insurance £5 million
  • Travel (hotels, car hire and car leasing) £5million
  • Office Supplies £2million.

There are approximately 1000 independent training providers in the United Kingdom. They are dispersed throughout all regions. The majority of these are locally based and are usually smaller in size than the typical further education college which is the nearest equivalent organisation. There is a growing minority of training organisations though who are nationally based and much bigger in size. Most of these organisations work within a specialist area of training such as engineering, construction, hair and beauty etc. They are often set up as limited companies, some of which have charitable status.

Project Partners

These include-

Greater Manchester Learning Provider Network (GMLPN), represent the interests of a network of over 50 members involved in work based learning. GMLPN are already involved in innovative procurement work for the benefit of their members.

Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP). AELP are the national membership organisation which represents the WBL sector.

The Work Based Learning or Training Sector

Providers of work based learning are principally funded through the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) which is a division of the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) and are largely in one of four subsets:

Independent Training Providers (the main focus of the project), Further Education Colleges

Local Authorities, Employers.

The focus of the project though is Independent Training Providers as they at present are unable to access any national purchasing agreements. All of the other three subsets have access to their own aggregate procurement arrangements.

Project Developments

Work in recent months has moved us to an implementation stage from December 2012. In particular this is due to-

  • Work on our website, www.gemforwbl.ac.uk, will be completed and the site will go live from December 2012.
  • Our first framework agreement for the sector is with Office Depot and it too will start in December 2012.
  • To follow up the launch of the site we expect to be able to reach agreement with suppliers on a number of products, in particular from our high spend analysis work.
  • We aim to make the site the home of WBL purchasing and want to make the site have a strong flavour of specialist goods and services to the sector. Therefore we welcome in particular suppliers, both large and small, who want to sell specialist educational/training goods and services to this sector. 

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