Army Acquisition Workforce members don’t need to wait to develop their careers—they can start right away.
by Jacqueline M. Hames
Beginning a new career can be an intimidating process. As with any milestone change in life—graduate school, marriage, children, moving to a new location, etc.—there’s quite a bit to plan. What do you want out of your job? How do you want to contribute to the company? What things are required or expected of you?
Navigating these questions and the inevitable learning curve that comes with new transitions is difficult, but it isn’t something civilian Army Acquisition Workforce members need to do alone.
The Army Director for Acquisition Career Management (DACM) Office has programs available for junior workforce members to help develop their careers: The Acquisition Leadership Challenge Program-Beginnings (ACLP-B), the Defense Civilian Emerging Leader Program (DCELP) and the Acquisition Tuition Assistance Program (ATAP).
JUST AS YOU START
Starting any new career is a little nerve-wracking. Learning the office culture, business rules and other implied codes of conduct can be difficult. That’s where the ACLP-B comes in—it is a two-day course designed to help new hires in the GS-07 to-11 range transition into career civil service under the general DOD umbrella and Army acquisition. The program’s goal is to mitigate the frustration and misunderstanding that new civilians may experience when entering the workforce, said Darrell E. Whitehurst, ALCP-B program manager in the DACM Office, Workforce Development and Engagement Division.
The program is focused on building a “solid foundation for effective and efficient acclimation into the workforce,” he said. It provides participants with some basic “rules of engagement” to give them an idea of the social, cultural and legal expectations within the workforce—including differences between the generations on office-appropriate attire, communication styles and behavioral guidelines.
“The ALCP-B training will ensure that people can communicate with their supervisors through a common language and help develop leaders who value individual styles and behaviors, creating a future leadership corps more capable of critical thinking and problem solving, teamwork and collaboration, and creativity and innovation,” Whitehurst said. Participants complete three credentialed assignments during the course that will provide insight on how to apply their unique personalities to multiple leadership development opportunities, he added.
The DACM Office ALCP program manager coordinates directly with organizational acquisition points of contact and acquisition career management advocates to recruit participants, Whitehurst said. Organizational acquisition points of contact are an “on-site resource for acquisition information. They are trained to respond to questions from their organizational acquisition personnel… ,” according to “Managing Your Acquisition Career.”
ACLP-B is one part of the larger ACLP, and as workforce members progress, they can sign up for Parts I, II and III to help develop leadership skills at every phase of their career. Reach out to your lead organizational acquisition point of contact for course offering dates of interest and nomination.
Not sure who your organizational acquisition point of contact is—or where to find out? We’re here to help. Check out the listing of points of contact on milSuite (CAC-enabled): https://www.milsuite.mil/book/docs/DOC-640236.
ONCE YOU’RE SETTLED
Good leaders share a few consistent qualities: They are self-aware, communicate clearly and never stop learning. And if a workforce member would like to achieve a leadership position, it is important to cultivate those traits—DCELP can assist with that.
DCELP is a leader development program for GS-07 to-12 civilians (and equivalent broadband) that consists of four, one-week long immersive seminars that share team building strategies, enhance communication skills, promote self-awareness and strengthen leadership capabilities. “The program focuses on five learning objectives: Know self, express self, build teams, lead people and understand the DOD,” said Kristine Faria, an acquisition education and training manager in the DACM Office, Workforce Development and Engagement Division. Participants will engage in reflection exercises, mentoring, peer and individual coaching, team and individual presentations, leadership assessments, networking opportunities, experiential activities and a final capstone project.
“DCELP is a special program. Participants include Army civilians as well as civilians from the other services and from defense organizations,” Faria said. “This diversity allows participants to network with other emerging leaders from across DOD.” Two cohorts are offered each year—one for the acquisition, human resources and financial management functional communities and one for all other functional communities. “Being part of this special cohort [acquisition, human resources and financial management] provides Army acquisition participants the opportunity to build relationships not only with other emerging leaders, but specifically with other leaders in the defense acquisition community,” she said.
Faria emphasized the importance of the application process and course prerequisites when workforce members are considering the DCELP program. “DCELP applicants must have completed the appropriate Civilian Education System [CES] course for their grade. For GS-07 through GS-09 or equivalent pay band, the course is CES Basic. For GS-10 through GS-12 or equivalent, the course is CES Intermediate,” she explained. “Every year we have people who want to attend DCELP, but they can’t apply because they’re missing the CES prerequisite. If you’re interested in developing your leadership skills, now is the time to talk to your local training officers about getting a seat in a CES course.”
Every year, the DACM Office sends out notifications to workforce members that the program is open for application through social media, the DACM Hot Topics publication, and via organizational acquisition points of contact and the acquisition career management advocates, she added. The next application window will open in Spring 2023.
“Upon completion of the program, the intention is for participants to return to their organizations with tools and strategies that they can use to successfully manage the challenges they will encounter as future DOD leaders,” Faria said.
As workforce members progress through their careers, it may be helpful to take courses or earn certifications related to their jobs for a more in-depth look at their area of interest. But sometimes the pursuit of higher degrees can be cost prohibitive. ATAP can help civilian employees—as well as Functional Area 51 Contracting employees and noncommissioned officers—fund their education.
According to the website, ATAP will provide funding of $2,000 a course, up to $12,500 for a master’s degree and $10,000 for a bachelor’s degree, or individual business or acquisition-related courses per fiscal year. Fees exceeding those limits are the responsibility of the ATAP participant. Be sure to monitor the website for the upcoming application announcement.
Workforce members who create a solid foundation for their career as a junior employee will be better equipped to achieve their career goals and navigate what can sometimes be a confusing workplace environment. Make sure you get a head start and consider the DACM Office’s junior programs.
For more information on DACM civilian programs or acquisition career development opportunities, go to https://asc.army.mil/web/career-development/civilian.
JACQUELINE M. HAMES is an editor with Army AL&T magazine. She holds a B.A. in creative writing from Christopher Newport University. She has more than 10 years of experience writing and editing news and feature articles for publication.