Quality assurance intern program pushed throughout the 409th
September 26, 2012
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany - The 409th Contracting Support Brigade here is sponsoring a number of Expeditionary Contracting Command quality assurance specialist interns as part of a two-year program providing on-the-job experience.
"Having QA specialists within the 409th CSB helps us provide better assistance to customers in framing measurable performance standards," said Tony Baumann, 409th CSB deputy to the commander.
The QA interns must first complete a training boot camp that provides instruction on basic quality concepts like measurement techniques, and data capture techniques, to name a few.
"Once an intern is selected for the program, they're hired on by the sponsoring command/organization. In my case, it was the Expeditionary Contracting Command," said Mary Smith, a QAS intern at the 409th.
Quality assurance interns go through their initial training at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. Once completed, they report to their designated duty stations.
According to David Yelton, director, Army Contracting Command/ECC Quality Assurance Program, hiring the QA interns was a part of an ACC initiative to strengthen the quality assurance workforce in the area of contract oversight.
"The QA intern program provides the hands-on training and mentorship needed for the new employees to be successful in their path toward the quality assurance journeyman level," said Yelton.
"ACC currently has 25 QA interns, all at varying stages in the program. These individuals have truly stepped up to the challenge and are successfully contributing to the command's goal of positively influencing the ACC role in the area of contract oversight."
Baumann said while contract specialists are trained in the art of drafting and administering contract terms from a general business perspective, they are not necessarily proficient in drafting and administering terms related to the technical performance of the work being placed under contract. Quality assurance specialists deliver the capability to focus in more detail on setting and measuring technical performance aspects.
As part of the program, the interns learn the core competencies of quality assurance, such as life-cycle management, and auditing skills, and are then matched up with a mentor to help facilitate their success.
Karl Fischer, a seasoned quality assurance specialist with the 409th, has developed an extensive system to help the QA interns.
"Part of my job is to train and mentor the QAS interns. Through on--the-job training and regional contracting office field support, we provide the QAS interns with the capability and knowledge to perform as journeyman quality assurance specialists," said Fischer.
"In contracting, it's quality assurance that provides oversight, surveillance and additional training to the contracting officer representative. Quality assurance ensures that the contracts that are written are being executed properly. Another key component of QA is working with contracting officer representatives," Fischer said.
"CORs (contracting officer's representatives) are the eyes and ears of the contracting officer on all technical aspects of the contract," said Fischer.
Part of QA's responsibility is to visit CORs and customers and provide contract management reviews, surveillance and training at off-site locations.
All of which is one of the best parts about the job, according to a few of the QA interns.
"One of my favorite things about QA is going out to see and work with CORs and contractors, and being able to see how these contracts affect the well-being of our military personnel," said Smith.
"This is where our job really makes an impact," said John Workman, QAS intern. "The interaction allows us to collect data, make connections and enhance understanding up and down the chain on all levels."
According to Baumann, over the last few years the Army was not doing a good job policing the CORs and contractors due to not having enough quality assurance specialists and there was a lot of waste.
"The QA program is a good thing because it fills a competency gap that has previously hampered our ability to design and manage the most effective service contracts possible," said Baumann.
Upon successful completion of the two-year portion, the new quality assurance specialists are assigned positions within the organization.
"The 409th CSB's intent is to eventually place QA specialists in each of our regional contracting offices where they can be readily available to integrate with and assist contract specialists and customers," said Baumann.
Interns from the 409th CSB will graduate from their internships between October 2012 and March 2013.