REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala.-- For contracting specialists, training is not an option. Contracting personnel are required to obtain Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act certification and an additional 80 hours of continuous learning points every two years.

The Army Contracting Command instituted three tiers of training courses to help the new, the not-so new and the seasoned professionals obtain some of those hours.

According to William Baxter, deputy chief of staff, ACC-Human Resources G1, ACC offers a contracting boot camp, a contracting officer refresher course and a professional skills course. Participants will receive CLPs based on the number of instructional hours for each course.

"Some of the centers taught both contracting officer (KO) and boot camp courses, but the effort was not synchronized ACC-wide," said Baxter. "The Professional Skills Course is a new concept, based on needs-based training."

According to Beverly Hopkins, ACC workforce development specialist, the ACC Boot Camp training is a four-week course aimed at employees new to the command and the contracting field. It covers command structure, an overview of the acquisition process, basic contracting concepts and terminology.

"ACC's number one strategic goal is to grow and maintain a highly proficient, agile, innovative and engaged workforce," Hopkins said. "The command's vision for the boot camp is for new employees to understand the command, what their jobs entail and how they fit into the acquisition process. In addition, they become familiar with the concepts and terminology associated with the contracting field before starting certification courses."

Ideally, Hopkins said, the boot camp training should be taken within a few months of joining the command. In addition to introductory classes, the course has a threaded case study with exercises designed to give the students hands-on, real-world experience.

Hopkins said for those who have been in the contracting field for a while but still not at the senior level, the command has developed a KO refresher course.

"The KO Course is a one-week course for current and newly warranted contracting officers. The intent of this course is to reinforce current knowledge, ensure contracting officers remain up-to-date on current regulations, address common issues or weaknesses and develop proposed solutions," Hopkins said.

"The KO Course gives participants the opportunity to share experiences, identify problems and discover resolutions and best practices."

Hopkins said the structure and frequency of course offerings will be driven by the number of newly assigned personnel and any changes that will be incorporated into the curriculum in the future. For newly assigned contracting officers, the course should be taken within six-months of receiving a warrant.

"The Professional Skills Course is designed to enhance critical thinking skills, business writing and analytics," said Hopkins. "It is a one-week course available to both acquisition and non-acquisition personnel."

"The Professional Skills Course may be taken by new employees to gain perspective into the command's expectations or for those who want to keep their analytic, writing and math skills sharp," Baxter said. "Subjects covered in the Professional Skills Course are essential for mission success as well as the professional success of all personnel, both acquisition and non-acquisition, regardless of grade, series or career program."

Curriculum development has been a collective and collaborative effort, said Baxter, who pointed to the boot camps at ACC-Warren, Mich., and ACC-Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., and ACC-Redstone Arsenal's contracting officer course as the foundation of the command's programs.

"Information and materials were gathered and synthesized. Modules and subject categories were created that could be taught collectively or independently," Baxter said.

"Subject matter experts and field representatives reviewed and provided feedback for each instructional module in all three courses. Representatives from the centers and commands attended the pilot courses and provided feedback to ensure the curriculum was accurate and appropriate to meet their needs."

Depending on the resources available, both local instructors and a mobile training team may be used, Baxter said.

"ACC Human Resources will continue to coordinate and schedule future courses, depending on the needs of each location, as well as develop a fiscal year 2013 master calendar for all the courses."