Copyright Aidem Digital 23/04/15

Image above L-R – Professor Ian Oakes, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, University of Wolverhampton, Melanie Mills, Chief Executive, Social Enterprise West Midlands, Alan Smith, Director of Group Corporate Social Responsibility, Kier Group Plc, Ian MacDonald, Principal at West Midlands Construction UTC, Centre – Hazel Blears MP for Salford and Eccles.


[ilink url=””]Social Enterprise West Midlands (SEWM) CIC[/ilink] hosted an extremely well attended conference event yesterday at Wolverhampton Science Park, West Midlands. Over 150 people attended and networked with other like minded organisations in the sector. The conference was introduced by the Chief Executive of SEWM, [ilink url=””]Melanie Mills[/ilink] , who spoke about building social value in the construction industry and growing the social economy. Ian Oakes, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Wolverhampton University spoke about the key construction projects achieved and planned in the Wolverhampton area. He too spoke about creating social value by investing for the future.

They keynote speaker of the event was Labour MP [ilink url=”″]Hazel Blears[/ilink], she gave a very honest and experienced account of challenges around central government and the social value act. She stated that ‘Doing good is good business, it is as simple as that’. She believes that all sectors can learn from each other and that there shouldn’t be a divide between public, private and the third sector.

Following on from Hazel, Alan Smith, Director of Group Corporate Responsibility at [ilink url=””]Kier[/ilink] , spoke about his experience of entering into the construction industry, that he was classed as a (NEET) Not in Employment, Education or Training, at aged 17 and first began working in construction on the M5 motorway. He believes that there is uncertainty among some organisations about what social value actually means and how they can measure it effectively. He said that in Kier’s social value assessments, they ask questions related to the economic, environmental and social impacts to measure their social value. He also spoke about the importance of stakeholder engagement and Kier’s strategy for a sustainable business.

Tom Macdonald, Principal of the West Midlands Centre of Construction Excellence UTC, informed the audience of their work in the region – where they help 14-19 year old young people into full time education by incorporating construction into their education to give them the skills for employment. UTC are sponsored by Wolverhampton University and this allows them to access facilities close to the university and work in collaboration with the students for a richer learning experience.

The second half of the conference had a whole host of speakers, including Mark Graham, Director of [ilink url=””]PWC[/ilink] and Gary Stephens, Procurement Director at the [ilink url=””]Orbit Group[/ilink] , who both spoke about communities that count and integrating social value into a company’s organisational structure.

Tim Edwards[ilink url=””]Tim Edwards[/ilink] , Group Head of Regeneration at [ilink url=””]The Aspire Group[/ilink] , spoke about social mobility champions and that organisations are not creating opportunities for young people. He believes there should be simple and fair opportunities available for young people and that there should be more good quality internships and work experience available through organisations. Tim also showed the audience The Aspire Group’s recent Youtube promotional video that markets the groups social impact very effectively.

Alan Long, Executive Director of the [ilink url=””]Mears Group[/ilink], added to Tim’s account of social mobility champions by talking about connecting employers to a forum that has 90 connections linked to schools and NEETS. He also believes that by incorporating early education in schools, it will form an end to end process with the lack of well educated or employed people in the UK.

John Tradewell, Interim Chief Executive of [ilink url=””]Staffordshire County Council[/ilink] and Steve Jones, Account Director of Amey spoke to the audience about social value in local authority commissioning and some of the projects in Staffordshire used to create social value.

Finally, Paul O’Driscoll, Business Development Director of [ilink url=””]Wates[/ilink] spoke about embedding social enterprise into your organisations supply chain. He stated that there are 70,000 organisations in the social enterprise sector and that they are common in areas of high deprivation in the UK. He said that there is a plan to invest £20 million into the sector. Gill Winstanley, Chief Executive of [ilink url=””]Argonaut Enterprises CIC[/ilink] provided an amusing and emotional account of her journey and experiences the inequalities and discrimination around deaf people in the workplace. She spoke about her business relationship with Wates and how it is opening up new opportunities for her business and that she is starting to acquire contracts around the UK now. Gill’s whole speech was truely inspirational. It was a very captivating and thought provoking end to the conference and I think everyone was able to take something positive away from the programme.

The afternoon entailed a series of masterclasses and a Meet the Buyer Exchange, where organisations were able to talk to one another in 15 minutes to create contacts and initiate business partnerships. Dave Lane of Development in Social Enterprise and Ranjit Bansal of DYNAMIC Marketing also delivered a measuring and marketing social value workshop in the afternoon of the conference. Overall, it was a well attended conference by many industry professionals and construction organisations and there were some interesting key speakers at the event.