$$ for Training? We’ve Got You Covered.

By August 4, 2015Career Development
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By Sue Follett and Dr. James Rich

Editor’s Note: This is the first in an occasional series about the Defense Acquisition Workforce Development Fund (DAWDF) and the commands and organizations that have used its funding to better their performance or improve their workforce.

Quick question: What’s the DAWDF? Unfortunately, that’s a question a lot of people can’t answer. We’re hoping to change that, and to help the Army Acquisition Workforce (AAW) realize the benefits that the funding program offers.

Here’s the nitty-gritty: Created in 2008, DAWDF, or the Defense Acquisition Workforce Development Fund, is designed to address gaps in the acquisition workforce by serving as a funding source for training initiatives that target acquisition functional and leadership competencies and hiring across the mission-critical acquisition career fields of business, cost estimating and financial management, contracting, systems engineering, science and technology, and program management.

Commands can use DAWDF to implement initiatives that support the Army acquisition executive’s strategic objectives: improve certification rates; build acquisition functional and leadership skills; increase core competencies; and recruit, retain and recognize the best talent.

“Often, I hear ‘I didn’t know we could do that,’ or ‘I didn’t realize that was an option,’ when I explain the program,” said Jason Pitts, DAWDF program manager at the Office of the Army Director for Acquisition Career Management (DACM) at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. “We’re hoping to get the word out so that other commands can benefit in the same way that a number of other organizations already have.”

One of those organizations is the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), whose Directorate of Contracting (DOC) initiated an on-the-job training (OJT) program in FY14. The program is attacking real-time problems in a positive, constructive manner, and gives DOC leadership an in-person opportunity to coach, train and mentor the future force of the organization.

The OJT program was developed to address weaknesses that were identified through procurement and command management reviews. It was developed by USACE’s nine regional chiefs of contracting (RCCs), who targeted members of the acquisition community that were key to the contracting process but were not 1100 series personnel and aimed for a trainer-to-trainee ratio of 1-to-3 or lower.

“The training was designed to be very skill-specific and we wanted a format that encouraged instant feedback on learning,” said Dr. James Rich, who oversaw the training program for USACE. “We were also trying to provide training that could be applied immediately in real time using examples familiar to the trainee.” Capping participation to three people per session “provided an intimate, non-threatening format dedicated to skill acquisition and awareness of Web-based resources,” he added. “We found that the format generated far more dialog and Q&A than did didactic classroom models.”

Training topics addressed a range of issues, including justifications and approvals, contract closeout procedures, price negotiation memorandums, determination and findings, market research, and contract formation checklists. Topics were targeted to real-time activities and instructors used examples that were familiar to trainees.

The training sessions typically were established as one- or two-hour workshops. The trainers were senior procurement analysts with unique skill sets or experiences that enabled them to teach topics that were relevant to contracting professionals—career development, for example, or DAWIA certification. Most of the trainees were acquisition personnel from the RCCs, with some coming from the program management and small business areas.

In FY14, the OJT initiative provided hands-on training to more than 3,000 acquisition workforce members across multiple functional areas, including contracting, small business, facilities engineering, project management and the Office of Counsel. The training was accomplished at an exceptionally low cost per student at $52 per person, with total expenditures for the fiscal year of roughly $157,000.

To date in FY15, RCCs have conducted 116 OJT sessions for roughly 1,200 people. Training sessions included how-to sessions on conducting a source selection consensus, writing competitive range determinations, documenting best value decisions and leading debriefings.

USACE is still collecting data on the enterprise-wide impact of the OJT program, Rich said, and because the training is linked directly to CMR data, the results will be measurable over time. At least one RCC office has benefited from the program, he added. Overdue assessments have declined considerably, from 37 percent to less than 4 percent, and monthly status report levels have increased, from 67 percent to 87 percent.

“Feedback from participants and district leadership has been overwhelmingly positive,” said Rich. “The OJT initiative was designed to support the district’s acquisition mission, not just the concerns of the contracting office, and our post-training surveys reveal top to bottom consensus support.”

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  • For additional information on DAWDF, contact Jason Pitts or call 703-805-1253.
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Located within the U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center at Fort Belvoir, the Army DACM Office is responsible for ensuring the career development and Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act certification (training, education and experience) of the 38,000-strong AAW.

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