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By the time he had taken his GCSEs, Keith had had enough of studying in the school environment - he wanted to work. So, in 1970, when he was offered employment by the Department of Health and Social Security (DHSS), as an Administrative Assistant, he grabbed it.
"I had no particular ambitions to have a long career in the Civil Service, I just wanted a worthwhile job and this was an opportunity to get into the world of work and to acquire some new skills."
He quickly recognised that to progress he would have to start studying again, because more rapid promotion to Administration Officer and to Executive Officer was contingent upon passing internal exams, which he did in 1972 and 1974 respectively. As he progressed through these grades he held a series of jobs dealing with Pensions and National Insurance Contributions (NIC). Some 9 years after joining the Civil Service, he was promoted to HEO and then managed a team dealing with NIC issues.
After 2 years, he transferred to become responsible for planning the impact of New Pensions legislation. In 1990 he was promoted again - this time to SEO - moved to the Contributions Agency and took up a budget management role.
"Until the 1990’s, I had no involvement in procurement, other than as a customer, and I certainly had no idea of the scope or complexity of the work or its contribution to the business."
His budget management work at the Contributions Agency, however, gave him an insight into useful financial skills that he was able to exploit later when he moved to the Child Support Agency (CSA) in early 1997 to take up a role as Contracts Manager. There, he was responsible for establishing and managing external service contracts and internal Service Level Agreements; work that brought him into regular direct contact with both commercial suppliers and other Government departments.
"Until then, I had never considered procurement as a career, but the work was a complete change and I really enjoyed it."
In 2000, responsibility for procurement moved out of the Agencies into the overarching DHSS (soon to become the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)). Keith then continued working on external service contracts that increased in complexity and value.
In 2003 he was given the opportunity by DWP to study for the Diploma examinations that would lead to Membership of the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply (MCIPS).
"I knew there were gaps in my knowledge and that there were skills that I needed that I simply would not gather in a sensible timescale without formal training. My previous work experience in the Civil Service allowed me to start at Level 4 (Foundation level) which I successfully completed in 2002. After a rest, I completed the DWP Corporate Award between September 2006 and February 2008. It was hard work, but well worth it. I have learnt a lot."
In his current role as a Senior Procurement Manager in the DWP, Keith has been able to exploit the expertise he has gained, not only from his years in the Civil Service but also from his CIPS studies.
"I have to cope with some fascinating issues and my work embraces all aspects of Category Management, Contract Award and Contract Management. The contracts I have dealt with are critical to the business and cover a wide range of goods and services, such as Telephone Interpreting facilities, Office Machines and DNA testing."
To his delight Keith was awarded his MCIPS in February this year and believes that this will help him to be even more effective in his current role.
"Even though the work can be intensive and challenging" - he feels comfortable in the procurement role.