An online, SCORM-compliant e-learning programme that aims to prepare the small to medium enterprise (SME) to be successful when tendering for public sector agency contracts has been launched – particularly to help SMEs bidding for contracts related to the 2012 Olympics in London.
The programme – ‘Tendering for Contracts Training’ – seeks to overcome the perennial ‘chicken and egg’ problem that exists in this area of public sector procurement.
According to the programme’s developer, Lloyd Sewell: “While the public sector wants to increase its supply base, its procurement methods often preclude SMEs, which tend not to have the resources to find out about public sector tendering processes or procedures. Even when an SME does respond to a tender notice, the chances are that the SME will not understand the ‘rules of the game’ and so not present its responses in the most favourable light.
“Public sector agencies – including the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the Office for Government Commerce (OGC), the ODPM, the Small Business Service (SBS) and so on - are constantly saying that they want to encourage SMEs and award them contracts,” Sewell continued. “In particular, the ODPM is encouraging all public sector agencies to have policies which help SMEs to take part in the tendering process.”
Sewell pointed to recent reports by the ODPM, OGC, DTI and SBS, which state that UK central government spends over GBP 13bn a year on buying products, goods and services, while local government spends GBP 42bn a year. NHS and MoD contracts amount to a further GBP 21bn a year.
Sewell’s organisation, also called Tendering for Contracts Training (TfCT), initially developed a classroom-delivered training course to help SMEs to bid successfully for public sector contracts. Although the course was successful, Sewell wanted to allow those SMEs that could not afford the time or manpower to attend a course to benefit from the wealth of knowledge and know-how that the course contained, so he transferred the course to CD-ROM.
Endorsed by the Small Firms Enterprise Development Initiative (SFEDI), the latest phase of the programme’s development is an LMS based, SCORM v1.2-compliant online learning programme which has been extended to include an introduction, overview and assessment module and provides some eight hours of learning material, covering:
• researching, preparing, structuring and presenting contract documents
• how to implement quality management systems
• marketing products and services to the public sector
• management of small projects
Moving the programme online has enabled TfCT to include a range of self assessment exercises and questions, which are crafted to act as memory joggers for the learner. Also included is a range of supplementary material, including results of research into the tendering for contracts process from various EU-related bodies.
“The programme, which has already aroused interest from the European Council for Small Business and Entrepreneurship (ECSB), is unique in many ways,” said Sewell. “Not only are there no other online programmes dealing with this subject matter and intended to facilitate the SME entry into the public sector market, but the programme also contains an extensive list of support material – such as hotlinks that take the user to exemplar policy statements on health and safety, staff training and equal opportunities; mindmap diagrams that are helpful in project planning; financial planning information, and ISO 9000:2000 implementation.
“The policy documents can be copied and adapted – saving the learner a great deal of time and ensuring that the resulting tenders include the correct requested policy statements couched in terms that the public sector agencies will expect and recognise.”
The course - currently available from TfCT - is priced at £495 per learner and will be distributed through other e-learning providers.
Coaching and mentoring support is also available, via VOIP as well as email. This ‘value added support’ enables Sewell to help users with the structuring and presentation of their responses to the tender documents in real time.
Notes for Editors:
About Tendering for Contracts Training (TfCT)
Early in 1997, Lloyd Sewell (now principal of TfCT) tendered for – and won – a contract to provide IT-related business training, including bookkeeping, finance for non-financial managers, desktop publishing and so on, principally for the long term unemployed but also for those starting small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs).
TfCT began in 1998 after Sewell approached a number of public sector agencies with the aim of getting their support for business development training specifically for SMEs.
Sewell realised that, principally because of the resources available to them, SMEs are usually unable to demonstrate the competence in document preparation and presentation that public sector agencies demand, Moreover, SMEs also find it difficult to demonstrate effective management for any contracts that public sector agencies award them.
Initially, TfCT worked with the DTI and Business Links in London to produce a relevant training programme for SMEs. TfCT trialed the results in a series of workshops, held in Putney, which attracted delegates from all over the UK.
The course was transferred to CD-ROM in 2000 and was published online in spring 2006.
The programme has already aroused interest from the European Council for Small Business and Entrepreneurship (ECSB).
Further information from:
Lloyd Sewell/Joanna Schwencke, 00 44 (0) 1483 267098 / 07866 838286