Local government’s role in upskilling local business

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Local governments can make a huge difference to the small business sector by upskilling local business in areas such as local government tenders to drive overall economic development.

There has never been a better time for local governments in Victoria and Australia to increase support and drive capability uplift for the embattled small business sector – particularly in the area of local government tenders.

Small businesses are the backbone of the Australian economy. They employ hundreds of thousands of people, and make a significant contribution to the innovation for which our country is renowned. For many small businesses, winning a secure and reliable government contract could be the difference between surviving the current economic crisis or going under.

But a large number of government contracts, and certainly those of significant size, are decided by a competitive tendering process. It’s a process that can seem daunting to those who’ve never done it before, with unique terminologies, adherence to policies, specific formats and detailed questions.

Where is a small business to start? This is where local governments can make a huge difference by upskilling local business.

Championing small businesses is part of the role of local councils. Most have an economic development unit dedicated to helping small businesses in their area to thrive and grow. They develop policies to support and empower local businesses, and many also help with developing key skills.

Applying for government tenders is fortunately a core skill that can be learned. Many local governments around Victoria have been hosting Winning Government Business workshops on behalf of Business Victoria for years.

Recently, however, we are seeing an increasing number of councils establishing more tailored programs offering local businesses the opportunity to improve their tendering skills, particularly around local government tenders.

One such local government is Manningham Council in Melbourne’s east. As an expert in the field of government procurement and tendering, Mia Consulting Services recently partnered with the Manningham Economic Development team to support local Manningham businesses interested in responding to a specific council cleaning services tender.

Manningham realised this could be a win-win for businesses and the council. The objective was twofold: 1) to improve government tendering capability for the participating businesses and equip them for future local government tenders, and 2) generate a strong pool of responses for the council to choose from.

To achieve this Mia ran a two-part upskilling program.

Part 1 – Group workshop

All companies who had expressed an interest in bidding for the tender were invited to attend a two-hour workshop covering the specific information they would need to put together a strong response. The agenda included:

  • Tender format (what information to find where), language and terminology
  • Council policies (such as social procurement) and how they applied to the tender
  • Format and rules around submission – how to submit a response, when, and in what format
  • How to answer key sample questions – what was the council really asking?, what would the evaluator be looking for?
  • Evaluation process – how would the council make its decision?

Part 2 – One-on-one mentoring

After the workshop, local businesses were offered an individual mentoring session. Mia’s consultants answered questions, identified opportunities to differentiate bids and discussed council policies such as social procurement.

Importantly the workshop and mentoring sessions were all delivered under probity conditions.

The outcomes of this initiative were positive for both the participating local businesses and Manningham Council. The workshop gave the businesses clarity to proceed further with the tender, and council received a good number of strong responses to their tender, giving them confidence they would get the absolute best fit supplier for the contract.

Overall, Manningham’s tailored and targeted approach to upskilling local business proved highly practical and delivered immediate and measurable results. It is also encouraging to see other councils – metropolitan and regional – run similar tender and grant workshops.

By increasing the ability of a business to respond to local government tenders, councils are equipping them to build a sustainable business through government work.

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