Pat Condon - Making a difference

Making purchasing easier for consortium members is one of Pat Condon’s biggest goals.

And the recognition achieved by the Compliance and Contracting Manager at CPC (Crescent Purchasing Consortium) give a good indication that he will accomplish this.

Experienced in the banking, manufacturing, wholesaling and further education (FE) sectors, Pat has been a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply since 2012 and secured several awards whilst working in FE including the Association of Colleges, Department for Education’s Award for Smarter Procurement.

Pat is 18 months in at CPC, joining the organisation in 2016 after 23 years in procurement with Blackpool and the Fylde College. CPC is the purchasing consortium owned and run by the FE, sector, although full membership is just about to be offered to the schools and academies sectors. Presently, CPC has over 5,100 members. It provides members with specialist advice on best spending practices and produces EU-tendered purchasing frameworks covering a wide range of products and services.

Pat said: “I knew CPC because I had been a trustee on their board as a procurement practitioner since 2010. When the opportunity arose, I was seeking a new challenge and applied for the role. The board went on to give me a very testing time at interview, but I was successful and here I am.

“I’m part of a senior management team making all the strategic decisions for the business, deciding where to collaborate within education and our supply base, and ensuring that the procurement service we offer is the best for our membership. The key differentiator for CPC against other consortia is that we’re a registered charity that is owned by FE, Schools and Academies, with a board made of people in education.

“We have a team of Regional Procurement Advisors who go out to members, ranging from Universities to Primary schools, advising them on procurement issues. We also offer procurement consultancy via our group business, Tenet Education Services, who employ about 25 people. CPC acquired Tenet to help us complete our service loop, as we can now also help our members to procure. When Tenet joined the business, we wondered what the relationship would be like, but we’ve been blown away. Both teams are getting on well and we have a shared ethos of putting our members first.

“I came here with insights as a customer of CPC. I wanted to close any gaps and bring a different offering to customers, one that would meet their needs and make it easier for them to use our services. We’ve made everything simpler and it works.

“One of the best things for us is being a charity. All the efficiencies come back into the organisation and are passed on to our members. This year, as well as buying Tenet Education Services, we’ve put 15 fully funded apprentices into FE colleges on an 18-month training programme. They’re studying for an NVQ Level 3 in Business and we’re trusting most of the colleges will take them on as employees afterwards. This has been a big investment for us when you consider salaries, but we’re also looking at how we can enhance it moving forwards.

“In terms of external relationships, we’re close to the H.E. Joint Contracting Group and The University Catering Organisation (TUCO) among others. We tender together, partner up to work on specs and go to market together. One good example was the NWUPC stationery contract where we went to the meetings and then fed back on behalf of the membership. We work with the Department for Education, academy groups, industry bodies and anyone where we feel collaboration will benefit.

“It helps our members as we have a strategic direction to follow but we also develop alliances and allegiances when it is beneficial. On GDPR we’ve worked with the Joint Contacting Group to develop all the contractual terms and member guidance. We’ve all contributed for one consortia to take the lead rather than all work in our individual silos.

“There are challenges as the face of education changes. Everything moves so quickly and the pressures on funding have never been greater. FE stats have shown that almost 50% of FE colleges are making a loss. School funding has reached a point where groups of headmasters are writing to government ministers saying there’s not enough funding. Every last penny has to be squeezed out of every budget.

“We’re proud of what we’re achieving at CPC. We ran a survey last September where 90% of our membership rated us as excellent or very good. There is obviously the odd challenging experience but it’s how we react that counts. We will look to continually improve and then this 90% approval rate should continue to grow.

“I’m motivated to make a difference. I know what we do will genuinely benefit education. Helping an educational establishment to save enough money to invest somewhere else in their organisation for the betterment of their students means that I know that my team are doing their jobs well.

“We’re looking forward to seeing where the CPC Group can go and what our team can achieve. We’re an organisation with massive growth potential and if we can continue to build and achieve for our members, that will be enough for me.”

Find out about Pat’s background, his approach to his team and mentors that made all the difference in part two of this interview here.

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