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by Anna-Carolle Bougie

Before submitting my first article on professional development and certification for the materiel and supply community in the federal government (Summit, June 2000), I asked a long-time friend in the community to read it with a critical eye. He responded: the article provided a good balance of truth, current information and controversial questions needing to be asked. The article reflected the feelings and frustrations of some of the members of the materiel and supply management (MSM) community, employees and their managers most affected by the implementation of this program. It produced some interesting responses, ranging from "right-on" to "the information is out of date" - not wrong, just dated.

While some questions have since been answered, there is still a need for a better communication strategy to departmental employees so that each person can evaluate what it means to them.

Recently, Jane Billings, assistant deputy minister, supply operations, Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC), was guest speaker at the "Millennium Speaker Series," sponsored by the Materiel Management Institute. She spoke of maximizing the added value and demonstrated competence found in the MSM communities through early involvement in procurement and contracting initiatives. Communications, consultation and cooperation were the central themes.

Competency profiles and training and development requirements within the communities are essential elements of the Procurement Reform Initiative. The professional development program has been hailed as long overdue and as the right thing to do to prepare employees to respond to the demands of clients and the government over the next five to ten years, and the work of the Materiel and Supply Management Steering Committee (MSMSC) is appreciated by the community.

Who gets trained to meet future needs? The focus of the target population for this program has changed a few times over the last two to three years: from all involved in MSM to only Procurement Group officers back to increasing the pool to all those involved in this area. One of the concerns was that the private sector organizations might not be interested in providing a "public sector" certification to a smaller pool of potential candidates. Furthermore, the various organizations will self-select candidates for certification. Part of the requirement is experience in the various areas of the MSM discipline, therefore, the classification group is not important nor a criteria.

Government departments will need to determine who gets funding priority for training. It is expected that they will follow the existing departmental processes for the identification of training requirements and funding. The Treasury Board Training and Development Policy states " that training is provided so that employees have the knowledge and skills needed to develop and implement current and future government programs training is provided when it is necessary and cost-effective."

Organizations are addressing the concerns of employees who already have a certain level of education, by recognizing existing programs - university-level diplomas or degrees and professional designations. Other organizations, such as the property and facilities management and federal financial communities, also recognize the importance of the various certification programs and provide outside training to their employees. However, both the university or the designation are then supplemented with public sector-specific training/development.

The MSMSC program can play a large role here. As well, there is a sense of recognition of professionalism if senior-level government supports the certification and professional development of employees.

Billings mentioned a group of 100 interns, now in the third year of training. Most of the interns came from either closed competitions within PWGSC or from the University Recruitment Program. Could promoting inter-departmental recruitment and internship be another part of the answer to meet future resourcing needs? What should be the balance between the individual's responsibility for personal improvement and the organization's responsibility to provide training?

The MSMSC program is presented as the solution to all that troubles the community, but more questions can still be asked. It is a great opportunity for recruits up to level 4 who are willing to undertake professional development. At level 4 and above, they will be "grandparented," but will that limit their opportunity for advancement? This program is significant and critical to the future success of MSM, but perhaps it should be one of several choices. Perhaps employees could select how they, individually, want to do their part in the community.

Anna-Carolle Bougie has worked extensively in public sector materiel management in the operational, policy and training and development areas.

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