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In Conversation With Jenny Robins

Jenny Robins, Operations Specialist at NEPO

In conversation with our Operations Specialist Jenny Robins.

Can you tell us about NEPO?

NEPO works in partnership with North East local authorities to procure high-value or strategically important procurement solutions. Every year our members spend around £750m through NEPO’s framework agreements, which cover electricity, construction, professional services and more. Our 35-strong team works on a hybrid basis from a HQ in the Northern Design Centre in Gateshead’s Baltic Business Quarter. It’s a fantastic location with lots of exciting developments planned over the next few years.

What is your role?

I’m operations specialist and work as part of the senior management team to progress NEPO’s ambitious strategy. I have responsibility for performance management, internal communications, governance, finance and HR. I started the role in April 2023, and it’s a completely new position within NEPO, so I’m looking forward to shaping the role and delivering positive results.

How has your career progressed at the company?

Since joining NEPO in 2011 I’ve had lots of opportunities to get involved in different aspects of the business. I think that is one of the advantages of working in a relatively small team, your contribution is recognised and you get the chance to develop in new areas. Before taking on my current role, I led all aspects of NEPO’s communications and got involved in all kinds of campaigns, from writing about major infrastructure projects procured via NEPO, to spending a corporate volunteering day at Washington Wetlands helping to showcase how procurement drives positive outcomes for local communities.

Tell us about your team and the areas you operate in

NEPO can be grouped into three areas – procurement, systems and the operational side which covers finance, HR, communications. My role sits on the operational side, however all areas interface and collaborate. Our corporate values use the acronym CANNY, and that is apt because our team culture is incredibly supportive and vibrant.

What is your proudest business achievement?

We returned to office life in early 2022, having worked from home throughout the pandemic. We marked this milestone by launching a new brand, new office space and new strategy – and I was involved in all three projects. Having worked for the best part of a year on these different elements, it was so rewarding to finally launch them to the team and wider world. The brand has given us a strong identity for moving forward, our office space helps create a buzz and foster team pride, and our strategy gives us direction and purpose. I’m pleased I was able to help shape these aspects of the business.

How has the industry changed since you began your career?

Public sector procurement has evolved from being seen as a transactional business area to a strategic function that can drive innovation, unlock efficiencies and bring positive change to local communities. Every procurement project at NEPO includes social value, which means that every pound spent by public sector members on goods and services, generates additional value for local people, the local economy and the environment.

What do you think are the opportunities going forward?

Few industries have escaped the impact of the ‘Great Resignation’ and the UK’s shrinking workforce.

Helping employees feeling valued and energised at work is key to staff retention and recruitment. There’s an opportunity to look at the employee experience, from working patterns to wellbeing programmes, to help individuals and teams thrive.

We also need to think about the next generation of procurement professionals, and implement talent programmes and apprenticeship schemes to keep moving forward without losing momentum.