Leader perspective: Army interns pivotal to future contracting workforce
By Command Sgt. Maj. Marco Torres, Mission and Installation Contracting Command command sergeant majorSeptember 10, 2018
JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (Sept. 10, 2018) -- There are approximately 25 interns across the Mission and Installation Contracting Command, and another dozen are anticipated in the coming months. As I travel with the commanding general to different MICC locations, we take time to sit with the workforce and get a pulse from the formation. A reoccurring theme we are hearing right now is that our Department of the Army interns feel as though they are being left to their own accord to hurry up and learn the job after they are brought on board with our workforce.As interns join our team, each is assigned to an intern coordinator at their site. This is often the intern's supervisor or a unit appointee and is foundational in this development. If there are multiple interns at one site, it may be another individual responsible for tracking training requirements. The supervisor or coordinator is critical in setting up our interns for success by preparing them for Defense Acquisition University courses, completing appraisals and ensuring they reach their academic milestones and promotion potential. This training regimen requires a continuous hands-on approach involving responsibilities by both the intern to ensure they sign up for and successfully complete resident and online courses as well as their coordinator to make sure interns are trained and prepared to join the acquisition workforce.Despite the amount of effort it takes our command to successfully secure Army funding and fill these intern positions, some still unfortunately choose to leave the acquisition community halfway through their training occasionally due to inadequate mentorship that can contribute to struggles with academic requirements. We can't afford to lose this talent.Juan Ortiz is the intern coordinator at the headquarters responsible for managing training requirements. He works closely with organization points of contract at the brigade and field directorate level who monitor the necessary intern training requirements, accomplish quarterly training records and report the command's progress to higher headquarters. Together, they help guide the new members of our workforce through the varying online systems such as the Army Career Tracker, required by the service because of funding.Also, available on the MICC SharePoint site for G-3/7 Training, Readiness and Exercise are documents to help guide interns and their coordinators. As part of the site's shared documents is the MICC Master Intern Program Guide that outlines the description, roles and responsibilities, formal and on-the-job training, rotational assignments and performance assessment of this rigorous program. Appendices for specific career series intern requirements are also available at the site. It's important that all involved in the intern program are familiar with and follow these documents as well as command policy regarding performance standards to meet graduation and final placement requirements. We have to put the time and effort into the program to retain these interns as valued members of our workforce.Only six of our interns command-wide have more than a year of experience with the vast majority only having a few months. While we prefer interns to onboard in the first two quarters of the fiscal year, we've had several join our workforce in the third and fourth quarters due to the availability of funding from different sources. A handful more are also expected once job offers have been accepted. Consequently, supervisors should also be following the command policy memorandum and inprocessing checklist for civilian employees to ensure a smooth transition to federal service.To accommodate this late surge, our training office has coordinated an Army Contracting Command Boot Camp at the MICC headquarters from Sept. 10 - 28. Although taking individuals out of the office for three weeks during the fourth quarter isn't ideal, I applaud the supervisors and coordinators who understand the importance of this training for the almost 15 interns who are attending the three-week course.September is a demanding month across the Army contracting community. Our supported mission partners rely on our contracting civilians and Soldiers daily to execute mission requirements, but when it comes to the final month of the federal fiscal year, those expectations become intensified and contribute to increased stress. Meeting that challenge requires an all-hands-in approach.Managing the extra workload this time of year calls for our contracting officers and contract specialists to dedicate of every spare minute to year-end contracting operations. But keep in mind that it's also an optimal window to build upon the skills of our interns. By integrating the learning process between junior and senior acquisition members, uniformed and civilian, learning from one another contributes to meeting our objectives for the end of the year while preparing interns to be ready for the job ahead.
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