By Poole College of Management Staff
Some of the industries most vital to citizens’ everyday lives are also those of which people are least aware.
Public procurement — the process public sector professionals use to obtain goods and services for their citizens — qualifies as one of those industries; and, the National Association of State Procurement Officials (NASPO), the industry’s educational, networking and training arm, is just as important and unknown to the public.
In 2017, the NC State Supply Chain Resource Cooperative (SCRC) at Poole College of Management partnered with NASPO to create an internship program that gave Poole College and, specifically, SCRC students opportunities to work at state procurement offices and learn about the industry from NASPO and state officials.
“We’ve been increasingly impressed with the caliber of students we’ve worked with at NC State, and our members have been appreciative of the work they’ve done in their offices,” said Olivia Hook Frey, director of membership engagement and strategic partnerships at NASPO. “These students are a great example of emerging talent that can be beneficial to our members and the work they do on a daily basis.”
According to NASPO’s website, its membership “is made up of the directors of the central purchasing offices in each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia and the territories of the United States. NASPO is an organization that helps its members achieve success as public procurement leaders through promotion of best practices, education, professional development, research, and innovative procurement strategies.”
Aside from serving its members, NASPO is also focused on generating awareness and interest in the public procurement profession among emerging professionals, hence its relationship with the SCRC. “We are consistently attending university career fairs, giving presentations in classrooms and student clubs, following up with interns and looking for new ways to connect with students,” said Dan Kruger, academic affairs manager at NASPO. “We’re here to show how impactful this career in public procurement can be, and we’ve been partnering with NC State and a handful of other top tier Supply Chain Departments across the country to accomplish that goal.”
The SCRC and NASPO have collaborated on various projects that meet both organizations’ aims. In addition to managing the internship program, attending the Poole College of Management’s recruiting events and speaking at the college’s Supply Chain Club meetings, NASPO has also participated in joint conferences with the SCRC, including NASPO’s Academic Forum, where public procurement professionals and academics are brought together to share ideas and collaborate.
The two organizations have also worked on shared marketing efforts, professional placement and scholarships, for which NASPO has awarded over $15,000 in scholarships to NC State undergraduate business administration and MBA students.
“In 2019, NASPO helped place 4 MBA students with internships in state procurement offices in Maryland, DC, and Texas,” wrote Troy Pinkins, director of the Supply Chain Resource Cooperative and a lecturer in strategic management at Poole College.
As the NC State liaison to NASPO, Pinkins has participated in the NASPO State Training Coordinator Conference, Annual Conference, Academic Forum and Student Scholarship Program since 2017 when the relationship was forged.
Sahithi Chityala, a Jenkins MBA candidate with a concentration in supply chain, interned at the Washington, D.C., Office of Contracting and Procurement (OCP) last summer. “During my internship at the D.C. Office of Contracting and Procurement, my colleagues helped me understand the operations, gave me an opportunity to explore my area of interest and guided me in that area to contribute my best to the organization,” Chityala wrote. “It was a great learning experience for me.”
Another MBA candidate, Sahir Patel, interned last summer at the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts. “The agency is responsible for estimating and collecting revenues, managing fiscal and treasury operations, unsettled property claims, and procurement of IT and non-IT goods for all local and state government agencies in Texas,” Patel wrote. “Overall, the internship improved my learning curve and gave me a lot of networking opportunities in a completely new area for me.”
Ultimately, exposure — to the field of public procurement and its dynamic components — is essential. With the SCRC and NASPO’s collaborative projects, students and public procurement offices are finding exactly what they need: opportunities for success.
“The students we’ve worked with have seemed really confident and definitely very capable, and we look forward to hiring more NC State students this summer for our program in procurement offices across the country,” Frey said.