Advancing state procurement skill levels
The National Association of State Procurement Officials (NASPO), is a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing public procurement. Its members include the directors and staff of the central procurement offices in each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia and the United States territories.
The group promotes best practices, uses a variety of in-person and online educational courses, provides professional development opportunities and access to research and resources that promote innovative procurement strategies.
Jill Midkiff, NASPO’s director of communications says the organization provides its members with the resources needed to retain and attract public procurement talent. “Through Procurement U’s online and in-person course offerings and a variety of member benefit programs, NASPO is dedicated to providing a myriad of educational and information-sharing opportunities to the state government procurement community.”
Procurement U’s current offerings include courses on cooperative procurement, negotiations, market research, services contracts and more. Go here for a complete catalog. Go here to view NASPO’s procurement guides and toolkits.
NASPO is helping bring new blood into the public procurement profession. “With state government employees retiring in record numbers, it is no secret that procurement agencies are in need of talent. NASPO has seen a large push for internships in the state purchasing offices, particularly since the inception of the NASPO-funded internship program in 2017,” Midkiff explains.
As part of NASPO’s larger higher education efforts, the association has created a robust internship program. It has partnered with top-tier Supply Chain Management programs in universities around the country. “Our state members recruit from this pool of emerging talent to hire summer interns. It is students like these that our state agencies hope to hire into full-time positions to fill their talent needs,” Midkiff tells Co-op Solutions. Other ways NASPO is working to increase student interest in the public sector include attending career fairs, providing scholarships and speaking in college courses and at student group meetings. “The goal of NASPO and participating agencies it to promote public procurement as a desirable profession,” Midkiff says.
State procurement departments are streamlining operations to get more efficient, Midkiff says. She cites Alaska’s Statewide Contracting Office, which won the NASPO George Cronin Award in 2018 — a high honor for public procurement excellence. The state won for its Continuous Improvement in Statewide Procurement effort.
“Alaska embraced an opportunity to evaluate procurement processes to find ways to do it better and faster, enabling more focus on strategy and delivering value. Every process, form, approval, and policy has been put on the table and continuous improvement methodologies were applied. Three procurement-related improvement projects completed have eliminated waste from day-to-day work, returning years of time worth millions of dollars to procurement staff across the state,” Midkiff says. She adds that the Alaska Statewide Contracting Office has built a culture that encourages looking for improvements as a matter of course and celebrates them when found.
The association seeks to support the purchasing power of state government to create sustainability, conserve energy and national resources, limit environmental pollution and waste, improve public health, encourage clean technologies, and create cost savings opportunities and a balanced economy. This link takes you to NASPO’s green resources.
Procurement departments are using cooperative purchasing agreements to get work done, Midkiff says. “Contractors benefit considerably by avoiding the repetitive bid preparation expenses, eliminating the need for various bids on the same solicitations for different jurisdictions. Contractors can factor in greater volumes for multiple jurisdictions when determining their pricing. These savings are then passed along to the states.”
The organization created the NASPO Exchange to build relationships among the supplier community and state governments, the largest consumers of goods and services in the country The 2019 NASPO Exchange takes place April 9-11 in Denver, Colo.
NASPO’S 2019 Annual Conference is Sept. 8-11 in Grand Rapids, Mich. The conference offers a variety of opportunities for collaboration and idea-sharing among state procurement officials. A training session through Procurement U. is also available at the conference.
Michael Keating is senior editor for American City & County and the GPN web site. Contact: [email protected]