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BCCA aims to make public sector masters of procurement

Peter Caulfield
BCCA aims to make public sector masters of procurement

In the fall of 2017, the British Columbia Construction Association (BCCA) launched the Public Owner Infrastructure Masterclass.

Since then the workshop has been presented, through regional construction associations, to construction industry stakeholders around the province.

The one-day seminar on the public sector’s unique procurement requirements was recently presented to participants at the Vancouver Island Construction Association in Victoria, with the next session scheduled to take place at the Vancouver Regional Construction Association on April 16.

The workshop is for public sector employees, regardless of how much procurement experience they have, who work at the local, regional or provincial level, and who manage, directly or indirectly, the procurement process for construction projects.

According to the workshop’s promotional material, “public owners whose contract opportunities are distinguished by professional, well-structured procurement processes and project outcomes will achieve a reputation as owners of choice, attracting the most bids and the best contractors to their infrastructure projects. This directly translates to demonstrable value for money and aligns with public sector obligations for fair, open and transparent procurement practices.”

Instructional topics include the foundations of competitive contracting law in Canada; unique public sector obligations; construction delivery options; leveraging market intelligence; the role of bonding and sureties; procurement methods; evaluation strategies; industry templates and resources; and selecting design professionals.

Learning objectives are likewise detailed and numerous and include:

  • a review of public sector procurement obligations and processes;
  • the examination of the B.C. Government’s Capital Asset Management Framework as a best practice;
  • an assessment of the risks and benefits of construction project delivery methods;
  • the exploration of collaborative strategies to enhance project success;
  • the identification of the most appropriate procurement process and project delivery method for typical public sector construction scenarios; and
  • the design of a procurement process including the project delivery method for an actual project.

Course content was created by the BCCA’s Warren Perks and National Education Consulting Inc. (NECI), a Victoria-based procurement expert and training organization.

There’s no time like the present for such a course, said BCCA president Chris Atchison.

“There is a need for such a workshop now because of the retirements in the public sector,” Atchison said. “Experienced procurement professionals are leaving and their know-how is too often leaving with them.”

Atchison said the workshop is unique because it has been designed for public sector customers of BCCA members, not the members themselves.

“The workshop adds context to today’s competitive construction market, in which most contractors are busy,” said Atchison.

Participation in the workshop will not only enable public sector owners to attract high-quality bids from contractors, “it also serves the construction industry well because contractors will be confident they understand owners’ requirements,” Atchison said.

The Infrastructure Masterclass workshop is an example of how the BCCA is “leaning into” its advocacy role as subject matter experts, he added.

“We believe public sector procurement capacity plays a crucial role in the success of our industry,” Atchison said. “We’ve collaborated with NECI, government advisers and with our four regional construction associations to develop the curriculum and make it available in each region.”

NECI president Maureen Sullivan said the first half of the workshop will deal with public sector procurement principles and the second half will focus on the five or six most common delivery models.

Public sector procurement needs to be planned carefully from the start, Sullivan advised.

“Pre-bid engagement with potential contractors is often a good idea,” she said.

“Before they solicit bids, project owners should consider taking the initiative and talking to many potential bidders to find out what their capabilities are.”

Public sector owners should also consider consulting their local construction associations to find out when contractors are available so they can solicit bids at a time when they can expect to get the most interest from contractors.

“The construction market in B.C. is tight now and the contractors whom a public sector owner needs to interest might not be available when you are,” Sullivan said.

Frank Hale, director of procurement services at the College of New Caledonia in the north-central Interior of B.C., and his procurement team took the workshop when it was offered in Prince George in October 2017.

“I have 35 years of experience in procurement, so it was a good refresher course for me,” said Hale.

“It was a good overview for my young team of four, who are new to procurement. It was also a good opportunity to network and build relationships with other people in the local public and private sectors.”

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