Bid support: staying competitive and innovative in the sector, post Covid-19

The Covid-19 pandemic and its resulting impact on businesses has sent shockwaves through each industry, prompting organisations to revisit their priorities and methods of working.

The impact on education has been well publicised, with the sector facing multiple practical issues. Classroom environments are varied, with children of key workers being back in educational settings with significantly reduced class numbers. Teaching switched largely to online delivery which, while effective in the interim, poses potential barriers in terms of engagement and digital inclusion. This is before considering the needs of teaching staff with their own care responsibilities.

Contract opportunities within education

Current challenges initially resulted in a temporary lull in contract opportunities across all sectors, this was followed by a wave of potential education and training contracts, such as:

  • alternative curriculum and educational improvement contracts
  • learning management systems and other digital solutions
  • support developing new strategies for further education
  • block purchase of educational places for people with social, emotional or mental health difficulties
  • various end-point assessment opportunities.

The opportunities throughout these areas are focused on innovation and alternative delivery strategies, with coronavirus contingency plans being a common thread throughout.

These contracts provide a great opportunity to remain competitive in the new world.  Winning more work and funding will support growth and innovation in the sector, promoting a better learning experience and helping to rebuild the economy.

Grant opportunities

A range of grant and funding opportunities have also been created in light of the pandemic. While not directly linked to further education, many of the opportunities focus on support for businesses facing potential financial issues. However, given the large scale of disruption to education as a whole, this provides a new potential revenue stream for SMEs facing difficulty.

One example of this was Innovate UK, which announced grants for companies addressing key areas that had increased in demand following Covid-19. These included social and mental health support, and various digital solutions, amongst others.

Alternative opportunities

The lockdown itself has also had numerous impacts on people from all walks of life. While everyone has experienced similar concerns, some communities are more susceptible to specific risks, such as mental health issues. These needs have stemmed from many sources, including social isolation, financial implications, or more general anxiety about the virus itself. In response, there have been a series of grants and funding streams to target support provisions in this area. To ensure at risk groups are appropriately supported, many of these grants focus specifically on outreach programmes.  

NCFE’s support

Acknowledging the impacts on SMEs and smaller organisations and businesses, we’re leveraging our role as a long established leader in the sector to support efforts and help SMEs and small businesses to brace for financial and operational impacts. This has included acting as a conduit between organisations to provide mutual benefits, for example, by linking training providers to online learning platforms.

In addition, to make sure we provide holistic support, we are also targeting areas on the periphery of education, such as mental health support services and introducing additional support measures. This has included partnering with mental health professionals to develop accredited suicide prevention training qualifications.

Supporting you with opportunities

NCFE’s bid team has seen first-hand the changes in government direction and impacts on the industry through tendering opportunities. While educational opportunities reduced in the immediate aftermath of the lockdown, they have started to increase again in recent months.

Upon review of both tenders and grant application opportunities, the impact of Covid-19 is apparent. Service continuity and flexibility have become common themes throughout, placing an onus on organisations to be dynamic and adaptable to change. Most notably, inclusion of remote working capabilities and contingency measures for a second wave being considered in most tenders. Further, under the guise of health and safety, wellbeing had been an emerging focus across sectors prior to the pandemic and mental health has since become an even more integral part of bidding requirements. 

With the landscape of further education facing numerous challenges, we will be increasing our collaborative efforts with partners, with the overarching aims of:

  • reducing the impact of Covid-19 on learning and development
  • identifying and overcoming potential barriers
  • exploring new and innovative delivery strategies
  • sharing knowledge to improve education and employment opportunities for young people
  • diversifying our service provision to maximise engagement with underrepresented groups
  • working with partners to identify peripheral support services following lockdown (e.g. mental health support services)
  • using our brand to support SMEs and increase the reach of their market engagement
  • increasing market research to understand new priority areas within the sector.

We will draw upon the expertise of our teams to further support both existing and future partners. The bid team, for example, will provide support through advice and guidance on the tendering process, ensuring partners can identify, apply, and win supportive sustainable contracts.

We will also help in the development of bid/no-bid strategies and response libraries, and increase bidding functions within organisations. In addition, we will draw upon a network of partners who can provide additional support to growing SMEs, allowing them to access more fruitful ventures and maximise positive impacts on the sector.

We’ve recently worked with SCLO Consulting on a 3-part webinar series focusing on bid support; designed to help organisations win more business. Read our bid support blog series from owner and Director of SCLO Consulting, Steve O’Hare.

For information on how NCFE can support you to remain competitive and innovative in the new world, visit ncfe.org.uk/gothedistance or email [email protected]

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