Understanding the Government of Canada contracting game…
Posted by sweens on March 17, 2009
Often in ones professional career, an individual may need some event to take place that pushes them to start or try something they have always thought about. Tough economic times will offer some of those people the opportunity to branch out and try something they have probably thought about doing for a while.
I have spoken to several individuals lately who through their own actions or their employers actions, have found themselves in a position to start their own professional ventures (mostly starting their own consulting practice). While this is an exciting step in the careers for many professionals, it can also be a difficult and frightful one.
Since the Ottawa market is obviously in a bit of uncertainty these days, many of these new ‘consulting professionals’ are looking to break into the Government world as the Government is obviously the most stable and biggest spending organization Ottawa has to offer during this time. However if you have never contracted into the Government there are a few things you should try to do before you tackle that market space.
The first step is to obtain a security clearance. These days it is almost impossible to get a contract with the Canadian Government without a security clearance. They run from Level 1 to Level 3. Level 2 and Level 3 require more personal information and can take 8 months (or more) to be processed so starting early is not a bad thing. I would recommend that candidates obtain a level 2 (also known as ‘secret’ level) clearance as some of the major departments (DFAIT, DND, Health Canada, etc) often require this level of clearance. Level 3 clearance is almost never required unless working on top secret projects for organizations such as CSIS or DND. Candidates can obtain a clearance via the following URL:
Secondly, candidates should wrap their head around the whole procurement process that exists in Government contracting. Candidates should be aware that contracts valued under $25000 can be directed to an individual without going to a competitive process. Anything valued over this amount, must go to a competitive process and will likely require the assistance of a staffing firm who has procurement vehicles into the Government. Unfortunately, candidates can not simply walk into a Government department and get hired on as a contractor (as can be done in the private sector).
Thirdly, candidates should be prepared to tailor their resume for each position they apply for, as well as be prepared to complete a skills grid. As mentioned in an earlier blog post, the Government values metrics and the ability to justify why they chose candidate ‘x” over candidate ‘y’, which is where this resume work comes into play. Candidates should be submitting resumes that reflect the requirements for each position they are applying for. This resume along with the skills grid will increase your chances of landing your desired contract.
As more people look to Government contracting over the next while, understanding how the process works and how to achieve the success you are looking for is crucial for any successful consultant.