Mapping out careers
June 25, 2012
ABEREDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - The Army Contracting Command's Civilian Workforce Workgroup has established a comprehensive career roadmap for contracting professionals to help individuals achieve their career goals.
Formed in January, the group has members from each of ACC's organizational elements.
"The Army Contracting Command is committed to developing a professional workforce that can provide quality contracting solutions in support of our war fighters," said Carol Lowman, deputy to the ACC commanding general.
"Our continued success is dependent on our ability to ensure our contracting personnel receive continuous professional development throughout their careers. In doing so, we must ensure a proper balance between learning, development and on-the-job experience."
The CWWG focused on five key objectives to develop the plan known as civilian contracting career program optimization. These objectives include contracting competencies and mission requirements; enterprise resources and tools; mentors and peer group; formal training; and, training with industry.
"The roadmap will serve as the framework to ultimately align individual career objectives with organizational performance management requirements," said Bryon J. Young, executive director for Army Contracting Command -- Aberdeen Proving Ground and CWWG chairman.
"We must embrace an experience-based environment throughout ACC and promote an emphasis on contracting competencies. Throughout the ACC enterprise, there are opportunities for employees to gain experience in virtually every aspect of government contracting."
The group was tasked to present its recommendations to the ACC leadership in April, which included written guidelines for a career roadmap and a plan outline for an ACC training with industry program.
"The CWWG submitted all final products and materials to the ACC G1 (Human Resources) for final review," said Valerie Ward, CWWG co-lead and human resource management specialist. "The products will also have a legal review before being finalized and published for the workforce. The goal is to have the roadmap in place by fiscal year 2013."
According to the CWWG team, the roadmap was designed to assist the contracting workforce with identifying career elements in areas such as technical skills and functional competencies, general business skills, career progression, leadership skills and professional development.
The map is divided into three key career phases of contracting career progression and development: tactical, operational and strategic. Within each phase there are career element guidelines to assist the contracting workforce with career decisions and to serve as a template for career progression.
CWWG members said the first step on the roadmap is the tactical phase which focuses on building a strong foundation of technical knowledge to develop the skills for increased levels of job performance and contracting certification. The tactical phase is when acquisition training is completed. To reinforce training, the CWWG recommended that training correspond to on-the-job experiences.
The CWWG also suggests that entry-level careerists be given more time to achieve Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act certification. This would allow more time to integrate on-the-job experiences with training. Although every employee progresses at a different rate, the tactical phase ranges from four to seven years.
The CWWG also recommended that tactical-level careerists and supervisors use an automated on-the-job training tool to validate competencies and work experience. This automated tool would pull data from the other training systems to track the progress of contracting careerists.
Other recommendations include developing a partnership with the Defense Acquisition University to integrate the skills of civilian contracting personnel, 1102 career series, with their military counterparts to create unified contracting standards.
The second stage is the operational phase which focuses on gaining experience and learning skills of increased complexity. Careerists in this phase have mastered many of the skills introduced in the tactical phase.
The years of experience could range from four to 20 or more years and some employees may work in this phase throughout the length of their careers. During this phase, leadership and contracting skills are honed and careerists are considered experts within the field, according to CWWG team members.
"During the operational phase, employees are proficient enough to mentor junior members and some careerists will serve in supervisory roles," said Roxanne Barbaris, CWWG co-lead and workforce development specialist. "The contracting career series is very broad and no one will know everything within the career field, but by varying their experiences they can gain breadth and depth to their knowledge base."
Pursuit of developmental assignment rotations and career broadening opportunities are suited best for careerists within the operational phase, Barbaris said.
Contracting leaders are expected to understand the total Army enterprise and the acquisition environment and this can be achieved through diverse assignments at different levels of the hierarchy.
Contracting professionals can gain exposure to a wide variety of Army acquisition experience within ACC's diverse commands and centers, each with varied customer bases.
These internal developmental assignments are beneficial to the contracting workforce by providing on-the-job experiences. In addition, the group researched external developmental opportunities for contracting careerists, providing the initial framework for an ACC training with industry program.
"To establish our TWI plan, the CWWG reached out to other organizations and individuals with TWI experience to gain from their expertise," said Charles Farrior, CWWG member.
The objective of the proposed TWI program is to improve the technical and professional competencies of participating employees by partnering with industry.
Throughout this partnership, employees will address specific learning objectives identified prior to the assignment and will examine the best practices of industry to gain insight into industry policy and processes.
The final phase of the career roadmap is the strategic phase. Employees in this phase are typically senior leaders of Army contracting who lead organizations or drive acquisition strategies.
The training for this phase is at the senior executive level and focuses on shaping institutional strategy. These individuals are trained to serve as role models and they tend to have excellent communication skills. An employee within this phase typically has 13 or more years of experience, according to the CWWG.
"Once a careerist enters the strategic phase, they have the ability to move in and out to follow their desired career path," said Barbaris.
"In contracting, careerists are always learning something new based on their unique assignments. One of the benefits to this career roadmap is that a careerist can change lanes to gain a variety of career experiences. This roadmap provides a holistic approach to managing careers and allows leaders to mentor, counsel and plan for the development of their subordinates."
The CWWG identified a new automated tool currently used by Soldiers known as the Army Career Tracker, a web-based career management system that integrates training, assignment history, and formal/informal education paths for every career series. In 2011, the ACT was deployed to military members and is now being customized for civilian career fields.
"ACT will consolidate training, education and assignment data relevant to position and career level. This aligns with the recommendation by CWWG to develop an automated tool for the career roadmap tracking," Ward pointed out.
"The CWWG plans to share its career roadmap data with the ACT team to assist with the 1102 civilian development."