Talent Development Centre

Tag Archives: public sector

The Talent Development Centre includes advice for independent contractors in IT from one of Canada’s top staffing and recruitment agencies. See all posts about the public sector.

Applying to Government IT Jobs: 8 Things to Expect Will be Different from the Private Sector

If your independent contracting career has predominately been serving clients in the private sector and you’re considering moving into government, then read this article carefully because what has worked for you in the past will not work well when searching for jobs in the public sector. Especially if you’re moving into a “government town” like Ottawa or Edmonton, it’s important to know what you should expect when trying to land a contract with a government client.

  1. Expect RFPs

Government procurement processes are in place to ensure fair and transparent purchasing decisions and that holds true when they’re hiring IT contractors. Before we even hear about the opportunity, you can be sure that the job has been reviewed by many departments and requirements have been edited so it all fits into one fair (sometimes confusing) Request for Proposal. The good news is that when you work with a staffing agency, they will comb through the document, filter out the legalese, and give you what you need to know to apply.

  1. Expect Black and White

Due to the nature of RFPs and the government’s obligation to remain fair and transparent, you need to be aware that every decision is black and white. There is no such thing as wiggle room when responding to government bids — 5 years of experience is not 4 years, 11 months… it’s at least 5 years.

  1. Expect Grids and Matrices

How do government evaluators ensure they’re seeing all responses consistently and evaluating fairly? With grids (sometime referred to as matrices) that can get to be long and complicated. These tables allow for a simple cross reference between the requirements and resume so it’s easy to check off who will move onto the next round and who will be dumped. Grids have both mandatory and point-rated requirements and a failure to clearly demonstrate that you meet their minimum threshold is automatic disqualification. If you’re not prepared to put some effort into a grid, then a recruiter is not likely to consider you for government jobs.

  1. Expect Longer Resumes

Everything you write in a grid to prove your experience must be substantiated in your resume. This means that you can throw the old “2 page resume” rule out the window. If it takes 50 pages to create a resume that clearly demonstrates all of your relevant experience, then so be it. Content is a must.

  1. Expect Strict Rates

Past experience isn’t the only strict, black and white requirement the government insists on. Before being invited to provide IT resources, all suppliers (staffing agencies, individuals, consulting companies) must first get onto a pre-approved vendor list. During that process, they often have to provide a maximum bill rate and charging anything higher is unacceptable. When a recruiter tells you that their hands are tied and they can’t go any higher with the rate, they’re probably not bluffing and are contractually obligated to remain at that number.

  1. Expect Hard Deadlines

You should be noticing a trend at this point that government RFPs for IT contractors are quite regimented and there is no deviating from what they want. Submission deadlines are no different. Nearly every RFP you come across will include an exact submission deadline (ex. 2:00pm on a specific day). Even being 1 minute late could result in disqualification, demonstrating how much more important it is to meet all deadlines provided to you when working on an application to a government IT contract.

  1. Expect Security Clearances

Primarily in Federal Government, if you want to work, you’re going to need security clearance at some level. It may be as simple as Reliability Status, which just requires a short background check, or as high as Top Secret Clearance, which will ask for your history over the past 10 years, plus information about your immediate family, to do a complete review involving both the RCMP and CSIS. Depending on the clearance level and your personal history, this can take anywhere from 2 weeks to more than 2 years!

  1. Expect Long Wait Times

“Hurry up and wait.” That’s how you may feel after you’ve worked overtime updating your resume, spent hours working with a recruiter to perfect a grid, and rushed through the security clearance application forms. Because after your agency finally submits the proposal, getting a response from the government can take months. While some departments will have results back in weeks, it’s not unusual for other departments to spend much more time evaluating. This is usually due to the many responses they receive as well as their commitment to a thorough and fair evaluation process to ensure tax payer money is being spent wisely.

Working in the public sector is definitely a different experience than private and the application process ensures job seekers are aware of that early-on. Still, IT contractors who live it every day will tell you that it remains a good industry with plenty of opportunity, you just have to know your way around.

If you’re considering moving into the government as a next step in your IT contracting profession, we recommend starting today. Get in touch with your preferred recruiter to begin security clearances and to learn about new opportunities. Remember, even if you apply to a job this month, it may be another six months before the work begins.

 

Ottawa Regional Job Market Update

David O'Brien By David O’Brien,
Vice President, East Region & Government Services at Eagle

Amazon has Chosen Ottawa!

That’s what they call the attention grabber! Though the title is true, it’s not the highly publicized Amazon HQ from October 2017, but rather a large logistics warehouse. Despite it not being the “Amazon Jackpot” we all heard about, it will nevertheless produce 1000 good, middle class jobs.

Traditionally, the Ottawa job market has been driven by the Federal Government and it’s by far the single biggest employer. But news like the Amazon warehouse has started some exciting conversations locally about the increased activity seen in Ottawa’s Private Sector. Ottawa’s high tech sector, once the pinnacle of the late 90’s/early 2000 economic boom, which led to Ottawa being referred to as Silicon Valley North, is now pared down. However, it is still led by the mighty $15 billion dollar global electronic commerce star, Shopify. The bulk of the company is in Ottawa and has been on an ever expanding hiring bonanza for several months now. Other high tech companies, albeit much smaller but not insignificant, like You.i TV ,Klipfolio , Kinaxis and Mindbridge AI have also driven up hiring in the high tech sector.

All of this is good news for the Ottawa economy, but the government or more broadly the Public Sector is still the straw that stirs the drink. The Trudeau government has been on a hiring frenzy since 2015. We already know that the Public Sector in Ontario has created 5 jobs to every 1 in the Private Sector for the last several years, but whether that is a sustainable formula is a topic for another day (Hint: it’s not)!

The broader Public Sector in Ottawa, in addition to the Feds, include the City that employs 20,000 employees, the universities with 12,000+, and the hospitals with another 11,000. These are all jobs that tend not to disappear, quite the opposite in fact. All of this has contributed to a blazing hot unemployment rate of 4.4% in May, the lowest in over a decade. The unemployment rate in tech, though not specifically measured, would be a mere fraction of the overall rate.

The Feds have added 1900 jobs in April alone. Shared Services Canada (SSC) is the most prominent having added 300+ in the last year. We know many of these jobs have been life time contractors converting to FTE’s in the Government. This caused a level of concern for many IT staffing agencies in Ottawa, as they suffer both a loss of revenue and the scarcity of quality candidates becomes even more exacerbated.

At Eagle, the greatest demand in Ottawa in the last quarter as been in these categories:

  1. Architect
  2. Project Manager
  3. Developer
  4. Database Administrator
  5. Systems Analyst

Plane Lands Safely at Airport!

David O'Brien By David O’Brien,
Vice President, East Region & Government Services at Eagle

Plane Lands Safely at Airport! The complex IT projects we don't always hear aboutBoth the IT community and the Federal Government often bemoan the fact that newspapers and media, in general, feast on failed technology programs and projects as their headline stories, while the successful projects are all but ignored. It is why the politicians and senior government executives have a long standing fear and largely prefer blind ignorance to the role technology can play in transforming and increasing productivity while they know it to be a truism. It’s why the Harper government, and frankly every government, effectively slows down or stops all IT projects in the months and sometimes year or two before elections to avoid potential embarrassments. We’re equally confident that although the media doesn’t report “Plane Lands Safely at Airport,” failed or over budget IT programs in the Federal Government tend to grab the headlines.

One needs only look at the incredible visibility the Phoenix pay system has garnered due to its glorious “failure”. This, of course, is the system that has resulted in 80,000 of 300,000 public servants not being paid correctly or in many cases at all. While it’s not ours to assign who, what or where all is to blame or at fault, let’s look at just some of the moving parts and complicating factors that have resulted in the new government fully engulfed in an IT Project mess that dominates the headlines. Unfortunately, many of these are characteristic and common to many projects and what therefore tend make it far more complicated than just the technology.

Processes. A long and convoluted procurement process that started in 2009 was awarded in 2011, and has now spanned two distinctly different governments. These procurements, although complex, tend to never envision total scope, underlying fundamental complexities already embedded, or difficulty to implement without a huge change management piece. For example, in this case, during the course of the software development work, it became clear that the myriad of union contracts in the Feds were being interpreted vastly differently by payroll specialists in the various regions and departments; furthermore, contract terms weren’t even clear. Re-configuring and “customizing” off-the-shelf software to handle many of the 80,000 pay rules and rates of the Feds is hopeful at best.

People. As always there is/was a huge people piece. The Phoenix implementation involved a government initiative that saw the Feds centralize and move its pay centre and all its pay specialists to Miramachi, New Brunswick; however, as is often the case, many of the experienced and tenured specialists chose not to move and a lot of knowledge capital went out the door (many have since been rehired and are located in Gatineau now). There has been a steep learning curve for many of the new hires as a result that resulted in a huge backlog of case files. Training and specifically training users was, and is, a vastly underestimated component

Specifications. It is now apparent that architects on the Feds initially vastly underestimated both data volumes and users for the new system, resulting in poor and sluggish performance of the system. Vendors and clients can certainly attest to so called post award “‘surprises” after what may have been a seemingly thorough RFI or RFP process. Who is to blame is always contentious but it is almost always real.

Finally there is always the unexpected, (somehow one thinks this should have been anticipated); however, in this case, the curve was the location of the Miramichi Pay Centre evidently had insufficient Internet bandwidth to handle the system load!

All to say that just as we know the hundreds of truly successful, on time and under budget IT projects will never be the lead story on the nightly news, we have to always remember every project is a complex amalgam of people, process, “stuff” and finally at the end, technology.