The value of partnership and inclusivity

Two women on different sides of the same coin are blazing new paths in their organizations by putting inclusion, people and partnerships at the core of their work.

One is Tara Hartley, Regional Director at Procurement Assistance Canada (PAC) in the Pacific Region. Like the other 5 program offices across Canada, she and her team help local businesses learn how to find and bid on federal contracting opportunities.

A significant part of that work involves supporting business owners or leaders from equity-deserving groups, including women, Indigenous Peoples, Black and racialized Canadians, persons with disabilities, and the 2SLGBTQI+ communities. Hartley has developed an approach that fosters inclusivity from the inside out, resulting in productive partnerships.

Anita Pawluk is the co-founder and president of RaceRocks 3D, which works with clients to create customized virtual training experiences for the aerospace and defence industries.

Pawluk is an Indigenous female entrepreneur who has turned to Hartley’s team for guidance and support to effectively navigate the federal procurement process. Consequently, RaceRocks 3D, a certified Indigenous business, was awarded several Government of Canada contracts over the last few years. RaceRocks 3D is also highly committed to an inclusive workplace, a goal to which Procurement Assistance Canada is contributing.

Tara Hartley, champion of inclusion from the inside out

A headshot of Tara Hartley, with short brown hair and wearing a dress shirt and a blazer.

“Partnerships are the cornerstone of Procurement Assistance Canada’s work,” says Hartley.

One of the most important ways in which the program reaches out to businesses is by partnering with industry organizations, such as Pacific Economic Development Canada and the Council for the Advancement of Native Development Officers. This allows Procurement Assistance Canada to participate in industry events attended by business owners and to work with a range of industry organizations to promote its services to their members.

The relationship-building and outreach efforts make a lot of sense, as businesses can grow by selling to the government while the government benefits from their innovative solutions. “Public servants don’t physically construct buildings or make vaccines. The government needs to find people to provide those goods and services,” explains Hartley. “Partnerships help us reach suppliers, particularly because we can interact with them as people, which helps us understand one another. Establishing that person-to-person contact is critical.”

Creating a more diverse supply chain, which includes suppliers who have historically been underrepresented in federal procurement, means partnering with the industry organizations that serve them. According to Hartley, the best way to forge those partnerships and connect with equity-deserving businesses is to emphasize diversity and inclusion on her own team.

“I have on my staff an Indigenous person who was formerly a supplier to the federal government. There’s no better voice for encouraging Indigenous entrepreneurs to participate in federal contracting than someone like him, who has walked in those shoes,” she notes.

She has similarly brought on board employees who are part of the Deaf community and who recently delivered a seminar on federal procurement in American Sign Language. “I can deliver sessions in sign language,” Hartley says, “but it makes far more sense to recruit people from the community with which you are working to establish a relationship.”

As a result of her commitment to advancing diversity in government, Hartley won the 2021 Joan Atkinson Award for Public Sector Values in the Workplace. She explains that the approach for which she was recognized has advantages for both businesses and Canadians:

“Canada has huge sources of untapped value, whether that’s employees or suppliers. It’s important to the government and the country that we tap into all the sources of value. We do that most effectively when we include and partner with a broad spectrum of people and organizations that reflect the diversity of our society.”

Anita Pawluk, inclusive entrepreneur and federal supplier

 A headshot of Anita Pawluk, with straight brown hair and looking to the side.

Pawluk’s journey to becoming a business owner began with a job at a start-up technology firm, where she discovered her entrepreneurial spirit. She subsequently embarked on several business ventures, including a foray into technology with RaceRocks 3D.

She met Procurement Assistance Canada employees from the Pacific Region office at industry events and was impressed by their knowledge and desire to support her business. “Their passion to help companies work with the Government of Canada was amazing, and I started to build relationships with them.” RaceRocks 3D competed for federal contracts and has, to date, delivered over $10 million in training platforms to the defence sector.

The guidance provided by Procurement Assistance Canada, and the connections Pawluk has built with her contacts within the program, have played a major role in her success.

“The people at Procurement Assistance Canada were there for RaceRocks 3D when we were confused or overwhelmed. They helped us find a path. They broke the procurement process down and showed us what to focus on. They’ve introduced us to additional services. They’ve been our biggest champions.”

The partnership between Pawluk and Procurement Assistance Canada has grown and flourished along with RaceRocks 3D. “I update the program on our wins and failures, so they know what works,” she says. Pawluk has also collaborated with Procurement Assistance Canada on the concept of developing longer-term contracts and shortening the timelines from engagement to contract award, which helps small businesses like hers retain talent.

Pawluk’s relationship with the program is also playing a part in furthering her mission to hire more Indigenous people and increase their representation in technology and related sectors.

“There are investments in Indigenous training. So, when a company like RaceRocks 3D, which is trying to attract Indigenous employees, gets a share of federal contracts, it allows us to hire Indigenous staff and complete the circle. Procurement Assistance Canada is supporting us on this path. Together, we can have a positive impact on the Indigenous economy.”

Hartley and Pawluk are proving that partnerships are a boon for businesses and key to promoting supplier diversity.

Procurement Assistance Canada services are one of many procurement initiatives Public Services and Procurement Canada is leading to increase supplier diversity. To learn more about the support the program offers to businesses, consult the Procurement Assistance Canada Service Guide.

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