Writing an Effective RFP for a Training Program

Wednesday, 30 August 2017 00:00 Written by  Super User
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Guest blog writtn for ATS by Robert Avsec

RFPA request for proposal, or RFP, is a business tool that should be used by a fire department’s leadership to ensure that your department obtains the most competitively priced goods and services to meet your organization’s training needs. A well-written RFP can ensure that your department’s expectations are clearly understood by potential vendors. 

For potential vendors, your RFP should provide them with a guide that enables them to accurately and completely describe the who, what, when, why, and how they will meet the expectations you set forth in your RFP.

A RFP Invites Competitive Bids

When vendors respond to RFPs they understand they are competing with other vendors to win your business. A well-written RFP enables them to be very specific in their responses to the RFP. It also enables them to provide their best estimates and to describe the ways in which they can meet your expectations better than their competitors. 

A vendor’s response to your RFP can also give your department insights into their responsiveness and attention to detail. While there’s no guarantee, a vendor’s responses can enable you to evaluate how well they would do providing the requested products and services described in your RFP.

Compare Service Providers

Your RFP for a training program should include requests for potential vendors to provide testimonials or examples of ways in which they’ve provided similar services successfully in the past. When you send out a RFP, you’re requiring potential vendors to:

  • Sell you on their merits as a provider of training programs;
  • Describe their staff’s knowledge, skills, and experience in providing training programs;
  • Describe their history in providing training programs;
  • Provide their financial projections for your project; and
  • Describe the materials and processes they’ll use to meet your needs.

Completing a RFP is the front-end of a process that will enable your department to compare similar products and services side by side and narrow down your selection. A well-written RFP provides you with objective evaluation criteria so that, in the end, you’re comparing “apples to apples.”

A RFP Helps You Maintain Your Budget

The process to develop a good RFPs is also a valuable tool to help you stay on track from a purchasing, budgeting and project management perspective. When done properly, writing the RFP forces you and your department to evaluate your training needs, your timeline and the money you must allocate. It also helps you define the expectations you have with potential vendors in advance.

Potential RFP Pitfalls

Vendors responding to your RFP, particularly small businesses, can find the process to be time-consuming to complete, and they may not have the staff to effectively respond as you’ve requested. While complex or costly projects should be given time and attention by prospective service suppliers, keeping your RFP’s elements simple and straightforward as possible can enable more potential vendors to respond to your RFP.

For you and your department, that means more potential vendors from which to select and that increases your odds for finding a vendor who best meets your expectations within your budget.

Elements of a RFP

The complexity of your RFP should mirror the complexity of the training program for which you’re seeking a vendor. A RFP for a training program consisting solely of instructor-led classroom sessions should be much simpler than a RFP for instructor-led classroom sessions, practical skills training sessions, and post-learning competency testing. The following are the key components for any RFP:

1. Overview of the RFP

Your RFP should open with a section that gives a quick overview of what your department is seeking from a potential vendor. Here’s an example from a RFP issued in Delaware:

The State of Delaware Office of Management and Budget seeks Proposals to provide Training Services for State Employees and selected external audiences.  This request for proposals (“RFP”) is issued pursuant to 29 Del. C. § 6981and § 6982which can found here: http://delcode.delaware.gov/title29/c069/sc06/index.shtml

The proposed schedule of events subject to the RFP is outlined below:

Public Notice                                                  Date: March 23, 2012

Information Session                                        Date: March 30, 2012

Questions Due By:                                          Date: April 5, 2012

Deadline for Receipt of Proposals                   Date: April 13, 2012

Notification of Vendor Selection                    Date: May 11, 2012

Contract and Effective Date of Award                       Date: May 18, 2012 

See the Entire RFP Here

2. Situation or Context 

In this section of your RFP you’re providing potential vendors with information about your training program needs and why the work is available. Describe your organization to the potential vendors in enough detail that they can understand the type of client you are. For any potential training program vendor, there are distinct differences between developing training programs for career-staffed, volunteer-staffed, or combination staffed fire departments.

For example:

  • The mission of the Cutting Edge County Fire and EMS Departmentis to provide emergency and non-emergency services to the citizens of Cutting Edge County to reduce deaths, injuries, and property loss resulting from preventable and non-preventable causes.
  • Our programs and services include: fire suppression; EMS delivery; hazardous materials response; fire code inspection and enforcement; and delivery of fire and life safety education programs.
  • Founded in 1969, our organization is committed to providing world-class services to our citizens while recognizing that we can only do so with highly trained and skilled employees and members.
  • We’re seeking the professional services necessary to develop and deliver a comprehensive training program that provides our 245 employees and members with the knowledge, skills, and abilities to provide fire and life safety education programs in the community consistent with Level I of the 2015 Edition of NFPA 1035: Standard on Fire and Life Safety Educator, Public Information Officer, Youth Firesetter Intervention Specialist and Youth Firesetter Program Manager Professional Qualifications.

Your RFP should also include a brief description your department’s available financial resources and timeline for completion of the project.

3. Project Tasks

Typically, this is the largest section in most RFPs. Use the project tasks section to provide the details for each task the successful vendor must complete. If your RFP is for a long-term training program, you should provide a timeline for each task. 

The scope of the project is clearly defined in this section, so the contractor knows exactly what needs to be completed. For this example RFP, the necessary tasks that you’re going to expect the successful vendor to complete are contained in NFPA 1035, Chapter 4, Fire and Life Safety Educator

4. Vendor Requirements

This section of your RFP should outline the requirements your department has for the vendor. Your requirements should include:

  • The vendor’s technical expertise in developing and delivering fire department training programs that are compliant with NFPA 1035, Chapter 4;
  • The educational background and NFPA 1035 certifications for the vendor’s staff that will work on your project;
  • A specified amount of work experience for vendor staff members in developing and delivering education and training in general, and
  • A specified amount of work experience for vendor staff members in developing and delivering education and training specific to NFPA 1035.

Your department’s specific requirements will differ depending on the scope of the project described in your RFP.

5. Submission Guidelines

Here is where you provide specific instructions to potential vendors on how to submit a proposal in response to your RFP. The submission section must outline the minimum content requirements for the proposal and lists for any attachments, e.g., copies of required staff certifications, that the potential vendor must include with their submission. Submission guidelines typically appear near the end of a RFP.

Example Submission Guidelines

Interested parties responding to this RFP should submit the following to the Deputy Chief of Administration for the Cutting Edge Fire and EMS Department no later than 5:00 p.m. on September 15, 2017: 

  • A proposal, not to exceed 10 double-spaced pages in Word or PDF file format that includes a proposed consulting/training plan. All body text shall be in 12-point Arial font; all captions for photos, figures, tables, etc., shall be in 10-point Arial font.
  • Vendors should provide three (3) hard copies and one copy of the file on a CD or flash drive.
  • A list of past clients.
  • Resumes for all relevant team members.  

Proposals should also contain the following:

  • Vendor’s contact information;
  • Vendor’s expertise in developing and delivering NFPA 1035 training;
  • Personnel information for all the vendor’s relevant team members
  • Vendor’s description of the project and their approach to meet the expectations of this RFP; and
  • References for past clients, with contact information 

You can obtain a sample RFP template (Downloadable in Word format) that was developed by The Denver Foundation’s Inclusiveness Project.


The Denver Foundation’s Inclusiveness Project. Sample Request for Proposal. http://nonprofitinclusiveness.org/sample-request-proposal

Chron. The Purpose of a RFP. http://smallbusiness.chron.com/purpose-rfp-80771.html

State of Delaware. Request for Proposals for Professional Training Services to Provide Training Services. Issued by the Office of Management and Budget. http://bidcondocs.delaware.gov/GSS/GSS_12659Training_RFP.pdf

For more information on Action Training Systems video resources call 800.755.1440 ext 3 or email info@action-training.com

Robert Avsec

Battalion Chief Robert Avsec (Ret.) served with the Chesterfield (Va.) Fire & EMS Department for 26 years. He was an active instructor for fire, EMS, and hazardous materials courses at the local, state, and federal levels, which included more than 10 years with the National Fire Academy. Chief Avsec earned his bachelor of science degree from the University of Cincinnati and his master of science degree in executive fire service leadership from Grand Canyon University. He is a 2001 graduate of the National Fire Academy's Executive Fire Officer Program. Since his retirement in 2007, he has continued to be a life-long learner working in both the private and public sectors to further develop his "management sciences mechanic" credentials. He makes his home near Charleston, W.Va.

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