By Frederick R. Poole, U.S. Army Contracting CommandApril 27, 2010
Detroit, Philadelphia, San Antonio, Houston and Ramstein, Germany are only a handful of locations that attract participants to the Contracting Career Intern Program; many from different walks of life apply but only a few are chosen to experience this challenging yet rewarding career path.
The program offers reachable goals for participants while providing a gateway for eager trainees to enter the federal working environment, and is considered effective recruiting.
"The intern program has existed for more than 20 years across the Department of Defense in various forms," said Lorraine Massie, Mission and Installation Contracting Command program manager for training and career development. "The current 36-month structured Army Intern program has been in existence since October 2002."
Qualified applicants must have a bachelor's degree and have a minimum of 24 semester hours of business. Under the Army Contracting Command career recruitment program, trainees operate as full time employees earning competitive salaries with the benefits available to federal employees. After completing the program, interns become permanent employees.
Interns are vital to the federal work force and the contracting career intern program has been an important tool in bringing applicants on board, according Cynthia Cohen, ACC career program analyst.
"In fiscal year 2009 there were a total of 461 interns hired and 155 more will be hired in fiscal year 2010," said Cohen. "We rely upon the
program as a tool to replenish the work force."
The selected applicants are not all straight out of college. Applicants include middle-aged wounded veterans to young Army reservists to current
The program was challenging from the beginning to the end, said Sean Dehaas, a graduate of Texas State University and the intern program.
"The hardest part is getting your foot in to the door. Once you're in, there is still so much to learn and there is always constant change; you have to be able to learn on the job," said Dehaas, who currently works at the MICC headquarters in Fort Sam Houston, Texas.
Many interns say the biggest challenge is contracting boot camp. The program is an accelerated four to six months teaching experience where students receive the fundamentals of government contracting. The amount of information taught to participants normally takes a school year to learn.
"It has been a blessing to be exposed to so much at an early stage of my career but also a challenge to assimilate and apply everything that I am constantly learning," said Heather Adams, a contracting intern at the National Capital Region Contracting Center.
Adams says her biggest challenge as an intern has been balancing complex work assignments with a multitude of training course requirements. Interns rotate through different departments at their local duty station and travel to other centers to learn different aspects of contracting.
Ten months into the internship, one of Adams' primary customers is the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
Prior to working with OSD she served on a Source Selection Evaluation Board. The SSEB is a board brought together to perform a selection process used in competitive, negotiated contracting to select the proposal that offers the best value to the government. Next she will do a two month rotation in the Small Business and Policy Office.
ACC career recruiting interns learn how to perform market research to identify potential sources of supplies and services, evaluate proposals and make contract award decisions, and other vital skills related to contract officers.
"One day you are working with the legal and policy teams to write a limited source justification and another day you may be crunching numbers to help your customer with a realignment of funding modification," said Adams.
More specifically she also learned how to write pre-award document, how to extend task orders after a blanket purchase agreement has expired, and that contracting is a team effort wher there are always others willing to help.
The experience was full of challenges and obstacles, but ultimately the transition from intern to official federal employee was an easy one. The transition from intern to employee was very smooth because the training wheels started coming off towards the end of the internship," said Dehaas.
For more information about the Contracting Ca
Career Intern Program visit the Army Contracting Command Career Recruitment Web site www.armyhire.com.