Building a Sustainable Workforce Through College Student Outreach

Recruitment of emerging talent is an effort NASPO has focused on as an integral part of our higher education initiatives.. Since we began this project in 2017, we have attended supply chain management career fairs at each of our six academic partner schools. We take a two-pronged approach; at least one NASPO staff member attends to grab students’ attention and explain what public sector procurement is and why it is an excellent career opportunity; and state members attend to talk to students  specifically about their state’s career opportunities.

We have learned so much from the first career fairs we attended in 2016. In order to gain students’ attention, we e have colorful pop-up banners, NASPO “swag,” and more of a visible presence on these campuses. Through our work with our internship and scholarship programs, as well as speaking in supply chain management classes and supply chain student groups, we have increased our brand awareness. Now, we often have a small handful of students at each fair who come up to our table and know what we do! We have come a long way from that first fair, we still have work to do.


We attend several fairs a year, and are always looking for state members to attend and recruit alongside us. Keep an eye out on the NASPO Network for these opportunities as they arise.

A special thank you to Gerard MacCrossan for making the trip to Arizona State University to participate in the ASU SCM career fair. Below, please find Gerard’s account of his first experience at a NASPO academic partner’s career fair.

By Gerard MacCrossan

Manager, Contract Development & Data Management,

Statewide Procurement Division, Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts

Taking opportunities to meet with students at campus career fairs is something that our counterparts in the private sector regularly prioritize, but these events have been less of a focus for us in government, where outreach dollars are often tight.

Additionally, the lack of majors or even courses that alert students to the public sector procurement career path, whether supply chain-related or otherwise, is often frustrating for those of us in the public procurement profession. That type of coursework is needed to sustain our profession in the future.

However, recently I was reassured to learn about the wealth of talent in college and university programs when I accepted Olivia Frey’s invitation to represent NASPO and the State of Texas at Arizona State University’s (ASU) Supply Chain Management program’s career fair at the W.P. Carey School of Business.

In state agencies, we spend considerable time recruiting — and thinking about recruiting — new entrants into the public procurement profession. Whether it’s replacing staff who have gone to other agencies or the private sector, or finding successors to the purchasers who have logged off their state computers for the last time, bringing a new generation into the world of public procurement is a critical need.

Last year I jumped at the chance to apply for NASPO internship funding to bring two interns into the Texas Statewide Procurement Division (SPD) for summer 2018. After a recruitment process through the winter and early spring, we were very fortunate that Nolan Bennett, a finance major from Penn State, and Ben Anderson, a supply chain management major at Michigan State, accepted offers to spend 11 weeks in our office.

At Texas SPD, we provided them an opportunity to see what government purchasing is all about and the needs and challenges we face soliciting, awarding and managing contracts. Whether they find jobs later in public purchasing or become part of the vendor community that responds to state government solicitations, the experience for our interns and Texas SPD was very worthwhile.

With our first internship experience complete, we’ll continue to seek out the next generation of public procurement professionals – both through internships and expanded partnerships with schools throughout the country. I see tremendous opportunities to spread the message that public procurement is a viable and essential profession.

Similar to other states, Texas has a statutory training requirement for purchasing professionals. Our office provides training and operates the Certified Texas Contract Developer (CTCD) and Certified Texas Contract Manager (CTCM) programs. Both of our interns this past summer earned the CTCD and can use that qualification as a stepping stone to a purchasing job should they return to the Lone Star State. Providing them this opportunity and seeing them successfully earn this qualification was important: if we hope to retain employees within our state agencies, training is critical for both their success and that of their agencies. This isn’t knowledge they can easily gain before entering the public sector workplace.

My goal at the  ASU career fair was to meet students (some of whom I had read about in the resume packet provided in advance), see how we could interest them in summer internships and, most importantly, see how we could attract them to a job in public procurement and potentially to a long-term career.

Truthfully, NASPO and public procurement are generally alien concepts to students; we don’t have name brand recognition like the Fortune 500 companies that target the same students. But the idea of a graduate entry opportunity was appealing to the students we talked to. As a result, I am working with my HR department to develop opportunities for new graduates, so we can train them in contract development and bring new talent into the state ranks.

These are potential employees we can train in our best practices, harness their critical thinking abilities and provide long-term opportunities for building a career. It’s a win-win situation. Many prospective interns at ASU preferred opportunities near their college community in Tempe, but several were willing to look at other locations for opportunities to broaden their horizons. The changes that NASPO made this past year, particularly the housing stipend, contribute to an attractive internship opportunity. And I can honestly say that bringing energetic, interested, critical thinkers into our organization inspired our staff and provided much-needed support in our resource-strapped environment.

I’m looking forward to the next round of internship applications. Hopefully some of the students I met in Arizona will be looking forward to spending summer 2019 in Austin. And maybe some of the December graduates will make their way here sooner through the entry-level track.

Leveraging NASPO resources, our states can spread the message that public procurement is a viable career path. It’s important to recognize that NASPO staff are working on our behalf, and I hope you’ll join them in face-to-face student events. I encourage you to take advantage of these opportunities to create a sustainable workforce.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *