Training and professional development are essential to the state procurement office. Many procurement offices deliver internal training to their staff on a regular basis. The topics of these offerings can be everything from how to conduct an RFP evaluation to how to use the office P-card. Whether an office has a formalized training program resulting in a certification or less formal “hot topic” training, the intent is the same: to improve the procurement process.
In addition to providing internal training, many procurement offices are tasked with delivering training to the agency staff responsible for contract administration. These agency staff may not have a procurement or contract management background but are tasked with the administration of contracts related to their job duties. However, there is a great deal of responsibility delegated to the agency contract administrators, as they are interacting with the contracted supplier most often. Ineffective contract administration can affect the overall success of the contract.
The need to provide additional training to contract administrators was voiced to NASPO by an attendee at the 2017 the State Training Coordinators’ Conference. These trainers cited the importance of this topic, as well as the challenges they face, which included developing and delivering an effective training to large numbers of agency staff in multiple locations across the state. Additionally, these training need to incorporate not only general best practices, but policies and procedures specific to each state. NASPO’s professional development initiative Procurement U sought to provide a training template on this topic that each state’s training staff could then customize and deliver to the user agency staff in their own state.
To develop this training template NASPO staff partnered with Dr. John Wilkinson, National Contract Management Association (NCMA) Chief Standards and Certification Officer, and NASPO Honorary Member Linda Morris. This involved creating training content and learning resources that covered contract administration best practices, while also identifying areas where the state trainer could add their state specific elements. The resources included a trainer’s guide, a PowerPoint slide deck, training activities, a learner’s guide, an evaluation document, references, and example assessments.
NASPO delivered these materials to over 40 state central procurement office trainers in a half-day workshop at the conclusion of the 2018 REACH Conference in New Orleans. The attendees included representatives from over 20 states. The room included a mixture of trainers that currently provide contract administration training to agencies and states in the process of developing their training programs.
The workshop began with a review of the content of the training template and the opportunity to ask Dr. Wilkinson any questions about the material. The trainers then had the opportunity to review the provided materials and brainstorm ideas for activities, assessments and delivery. This discussion included identifying opportunities for delivering training online, through microlearning and in a traditional in-person setting. All of the ideas and discussion were summarized in a document released to the attendees after the workshop. to their individual states, adding their own interactive activities.
One attendee noted, “I think having a standardized takeaway for all states to walk away with is huge for establishing baselines of general practices for all of us to use and build with.”
Another attendee raved, “The content is fantastic, and I can already see ways to incorporate my state-specific information into the training.”
The hope was that attendees left the workshop feeling confident that they could customize and recreate this training for the teams in their states. By providing this workshop and the training template NASPO sought to assist procurement trainers in the important work they do and help improve contract administration process.