Pilot Training with Industry program deemed a success
June 25, 2013
Three members of the Army Contracting Command -- Aberdeen Proving Ground left their government cubicles and relocated to defense contractor business offices as part of ACC's Training with Industry program.
Robert Perry and Nikeena Troy, both with ACC-APG's Division B, Aberdeen, Md., along with John Conlin, Natick Contracting Division, Natick, Mass., were competitively selected for the approximately 16-week pilot program.
"TWI is an excellent career development program designed to improve technical and professional competencies of each participant and provide career-enhancing experiences," said Dana Dowell, procurement analyst, ACC-APG Enterprise Resources Division, Workforce Development Branch.
"By studying the best practices of industry, our employees are able to infuse their newly gained knowledge and experiences into their daily work assignments within ACC-APG."
According to Dowell, prior to the start of the program, industry partners were identified and each employee was assigned to work with one of them. The employees and industry partners jointly prepared work plans, which consisted of learning objectives throughout the TWI program.
The idea of a TWI program has been bouncing around ACC since early 2012 as part of the ACC Civilian Workforce Workgroup.
"The TWI pilot program was addressed at ACC's Executive Industry Council, a forum designed to build partnerships between industry and government," said Bryon J. Young, ACC-APG executive director and lead for the ACC CWW, who was tasked with developing the program.
"During the council meeting, three industry members volunteered to participate in the program: Booz Allen Hamilton, Inc.; ManTech International Corp.; and Raytheon Co."
BAH recognized the value of the TWI program and wanted to do its part, said Nicole A. Funk, BAH senior vice president.
Transparency was the key to make the TWI learning experience meaningful for Troy, according to Funk.
"We wanted Nikeena to hear real discussions and witness the interworking of real decision making. She attended staff meetings and received a holistic exposure to the business and cost management discussions," said Funk.
"What a great opportunity," said Troy, who was assigned to work with BAH in Belcamp, Md. "Shortly after I submitted my nomination I received the acceptance email. My first day mainly consisted of administrative procedures, company orientation and I was assigned an office. My mentor also worked with me to develop a work plan."
John Gerbracht, BAH contracts manager, said the TWI program industry participants found that the learning opportunities were a two-way street.
"We learned as much from Nikeena as she learned from us," Gerbracht said. "It's a great program."
For Conlin, the TWI program provided a glimpse into the work of a contractor.
"I witnessed active discussions that led to business decisions and I also observed proposal strategy sessions," Conlin said.
"These pricing and approach discussions were often centered on finding an appropriate balance between meeting internal business objectives and maintaining the government's performance and cost objectives."
Conlin worked with Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems in Massachusetts, a short distance from his office in Natick.
"I was nervous my first day and didn't know what to expect," Conlin said. "It was the end of the fiscal year for Raytheon and it was a good time to see things happen. On my first day I attended a video teleconference with the vice president for contracts and it was interesting to see the interaction within the organization."
Conlin worked with Scott Downer, Raytheon senior contracts manager.
"John was considered a full member of my team and I made it a point not to sugar coat what John was exposed to in the work environment," Downer explained.
"John was given the opportunity to broaden his knowledge by looking at procurements through a contractor's lens, and Raytheon benefitted by having a true contracting professional work with us while sharing the government's perspective."
Perry's TWI experience provided industry's perspective on contract administration, he pointed out.
"I observed the interaction between the contracting officer representative and the contractor, which taught me the value of clear and open communication."
Perry worked with ManTech's senior contracts manager Bob Hill.
"It was clear that Rob came to us with a good knowledge base of contracts and business," Hill said.
"To maximize the mutual benefits of Perry's engagement with ManTech, Rob partnered with our program management team to evaluate and advise on mission execution challenges for balancing performance demands and resource constraints in geographically dispersed worldwide, challenging circumstances with a particular focus on the presentation of contract deliverables for cost management."
Perry also described the impact of his TWI experience.
"It was a very eye-opening experience. I observed the financial reporting process in preparation for a program execution review to provide the program status to the government customer," said Perry. "Then, the same reporting data was repackaged with a different focus to brief the internal ManTech leadership."
Throughout their TWI participation, the three ACC-APG employees said they experienced a mindset shift.
"I had to adjust and analyze contracting actions from a business point of view where profit margins and risk analysis influence decisions," said Troy.
"All costs were considered for each decision and it was interesting hearing the business discussions. I was amazed by discussions that resulted in several hours of analysis that were summed up to the contracting officer with a simple we concur."
The three ACC-APG members are back in their cubicles and have the responsibility of writing a TWI research paper and slide presentation to document lessons learned from the program.
"I learned a lot from the TWI Program and I think it would be beneficial for all contracting professionals," Troy concluded.