What is public procurement? You would not believe the range of responses I got when I asked a handful of my university classmates and peers this exact question. Admittedly, the responses were not pretty. They began with a “Uhhhh” and ended with “I have no idea.” Sometimes, I even just got a blank stare.
I, like many others in the wonderful world of public procurement, stumbled into it. Fast forward nine months and an internship later, I am now not only writing about public procurement but celebrating it. Not to mention, I can now confidently answer that question. And since it is Procurement Awareness Month, it is the perfect time to join together and help our friends, community, and even the younger generations answer that question: what is public procurement?
So That’s How It Got There
Over the past couple of years, the spotlight on public procurement continues to grow in light of natural disasters, the COVID pandemic, and the passage of recovery bills, like the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Finally, public procurement is starting to receive the appreciation and the attention it deserves, but we still have some work to do when it comes to showcasing how vital procurement and procurement professionals are to our communities.
I know I’m not alone in saying, that I have difficulty explaining my job to people—my family, a person on the airplane, and even previous classmates. Perhaps the best way we can explain public procurement to them is by pointing at something in the community and asking, “How did that get there?” As we know, public procurement is often the answer. Taking the time to explain that the bench at their local park, the street sign at the corner of their child’s school, and the computers at their town library are all there and available for them to use because of the public procurement process could make all difference.
Public procurement works for the public good, but it doesn’t hurt to remind those outside of the field. It is the unsung hero of public procurement that helps friends and family live their everyday lives without constant inconvenience. This is the reason we need a greater awareness of the importance of public procurement and procurement professionals!
Reaching a Younger Generation
Procurement Awareness Month is celebrated widely in the established procurement community, but this month’s target audience must not only be our friends and family but also the younger generation. We must start thinking not only about the generation entering the workforce—we need to think younger. Let’s put an end to the “uhhhs” and the “I don’t knows” and help share the importance of public procurement with younger generations. Finding creative solutions to engage youth is a must for this month and beyond. New initiatives like Arizona’s student recruitment program are great examples of how states are successfully reaching younger generations. How about rethinking story time with your nieces, nephews, and kids by adding books like Supply Chain Jane to your reading routine or even presenting at their schools. These are all great ways to help a younger generation understand that public procurement is the backbone to making our local, state, and federal government function.
Building the Path
As I mentioned, my road to public procurement was not exactly planned. I was fortunate enough to be given an opportunity and learn the profession of public procurement. The common road to entering this sector is one that is still being built. Over time, I was able to develop key skills; however, if I was introduced to the field earlier, I would have had a much easier road to success. There are a growing number of resources, but we also have the responsibility to shares these resources and insights to make navigating the profession of public procurement easier. We need to spread the word!
Students like Courtney Palkowski have shared the benefits of being introduced to public procurement through internship programs. While others, like Michelle Luong, have made suggestions on how public procurement officials can reach students early in their academic careers.
So, for this year’s Procurement Awareness Month, join with me in spreading the word!
An upcoming event that I am personally looking forward to is the NASPO Academic Forum at Penn State that will be highlighting the importance of public procurement and providing resources for students to better navigate this critical and growing field. Also, keep an eye on NASPO’s homepage and LinkedIn for other great ways to celebrate and engage throughout March. This is our chance to share how we are making a difference and to celebrate our co-workers that don’t always get the individual spotlight they deserve.