This project builds upon recommendations from Electricity Human Resources Canada’s (EHRC’s) Diagnostic of Aboriginal Procurement Strategies project through the development and implementation of regional facilitated workshops. These workshops provided Aboriginal businesses with explanations of the various components that are included in a Request for Proposal (RFP) process and guide them through a typical preferred vendor application process. The workshops also provided an opportunity to bring both Aboriginal businesses and electrical utilities together to network.
As part of the project, three pilot workshops were held (Prince George, BC; Mississauga, ON; and Saskatoon, SK) with both Aboriginal business owners and industry representatives in attendance. These workshops were designed to provide Aboriginal business owners with:
- An understanding of the makeup of the electricity sector.
- The business case for developing supplier arrangements.
- Definitions of some common terminology in procurement.
- Knowledge about the RFP process, common contracting requirements, and preparations for a formal bid.
- A forum for networking and understanding challenges, opportunities and business alignments between participants.
Among the Aboriginal businesses who attended there was a wide range of experience: most were established businesses seeking to expand their opportunities within the electricity and renewables sector. There were, however, a handful of businesses with limited experience in formalized procurement processes; some had no website, or no knowledge of industry procurement sites such as MERX. These businesses were looking to build a presence within the industry.
The workshop also attracted First Nations and Métis economic development representatives, and similar umbrella organizations, which provided advice, guidance and business development support to Aboriginal businesses. In addition, industry representatives came from large provincial utilities, who were forthcoming in their discussion of procurement opportunities and challenges, and the Aboriginal businesses were very appreciative of the chance to network with them.
The foundation for the design and content of the workshops was based on extensive research available in the Aboriginal Business Assistance Program report. Canadian statistics confirm that there are exciting opportunities for Aboriginal businesses to participate more fully as suppliers to the electricity and renewables sector. Compelling advantages exist for both potential suppliers as well as purchasing utilities, and the benefits range from immediate cost savings to longer term community development to supporting major power installations. At the end of each workshop, participants were asked to complete an evaluation form to provide their feedback and comments. In general, participants rated each aspect of the workshop as above average. A breakdown of the results are available in the report.