Big-hitters team up to offer free diversity training for SMEs

HS2, Highways England, Network Rail and TfL offer free equality, diversity and inclusion training to help SMEs secure future contracts.

HS2, Highways England, Network Rail and Transport for London have joined forces in encouraging SMEs to register for free training courses, designed to improve their prospects of meeting equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) supply chain requirements and help them secure future contract opportunities.

Working in partnership with the Supply Chain Sustainability School, the four transport bodies want to make it easier for companies to demonstrate their commitment to the EDI agenda. The Fairness, Inclusion and Respect (FIR) Programme has been developed for the construction industry to provide an industry context to the EDI agenda.

All four organisations outline good practice standards and requirements expected from suppliers to win work. Collectively, the four bodies are now supporting UK businesses to get ‘contract ready’ by providing access to a consistent source of training. This removes the requirement for businesses to complete numerous training and assessment programmes to satisfy multiple clients.

The CITB have funded the FIR Programme for five years, but with the economic impact of Covid-19 they had to reduce funding for this financial year, which meant the FIR programme faced challenges in sustaining its full offer of training. HS2 Ltd, Highways England, Network Rail and Transport for London stepped in to support the FIR programme, to ensure SMEs can continue to access courses free of charge to support their long-term growth prospects and maintain consistency in the UK’s pipeline of infrastructure programmes.

Mark Lomas, head of EDI at HS2 Ltd said: “We’re passionate about improving EDI and FIRs outcomes right across our supply chain. A project the size, scale and longevity of HS2 offers a unique opportunity to deliver measured improvements that can improve people’s working lives and career prospects. We’re proud to be supporting this initiative and hope to see many SMEs registering to take part.”

Malcolm Dare, executive director of commercial and procurement at Highways England, said: “We are committed to this agenda and are looking to bring positive and lasting change by delivering meaningful social impact and value through this work.”

Loraine Martins, director of diversity and inclusion at Network Rail, said: “The more that we can spread best practice and raise standards together, the more beneficial to our collective workforces. We’re pleased to be able to support the Supply Chain Sustainability School in this way and to further our shared ambition to have a more diverse and inclusive working environment.”

Staynton Brown, director of diversity, inclusion and talent at Transport for London, said: “We are proud to working with the transport industry to continue our support for these free courses that the Fairness, Inclusion and Respect programme provides. This training will help our critical UK-wide supply chain partners improve upon the great work many are already doing. This will help to continue to drive down barriers and ensure working in transport infrastructure projects is truly accessible to all."

Businesses can access free online EDI/FIR training pathways, which cover the following topics:

  • FIR e-learning: Recruiting People, Fairly and Inclusively;
  • FIR e-learning: Managing Challenging Conversations;
  • The Business Case for Fairness, Inclusion & Respect;
  • Monitoring & Reporting Workplace Diversity;
  • FIR in Procurement and Supply Chain Management;
  • Understanding Unconscious bias;
  • Mental well-being in Construction.

Ian Heptonstall, director of the Supply Chain Sustainability School said: “I’m delighted that we have four leading infrastructure clients providing a clear and consistent “ask” of their supply chain. The funding provided by these clients enables suppliers to access construction specific training that will help them develop their knowledge of equality and diversity good practice and in turn foster a culture of fairness, inclusion and respect within their teams - making our industry better for all.”

Click here for further information and to register for the free online learning sessions.

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