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Contract Management friends in Government and Industry, If you had the opportunity to join a Community of Practice “CoP” or working group (basically a group of people who share a concern or a passion for contracting, and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly), what type of CoP or working group would you join? What topics or areas would you be interested in learning more about and sharing your knowledge of with your peers? Would it be hot topics or fundamentals, or both? What keeps you up at night? Essentially what would you want to get together to discuss? There’s no wrong answer. Let your voice be heard… comment below.
I would like your opinions to brainstorm ways that acquisition-related training can be improved. A few months ago, Jamaal had created a post concerning improvements to the acquisition systems; one of those items was training. I believe that improving training is an attainable opportunity this year. It is unlikely that we will see an overhaul of acquisition training system, but there are smaller changes that I think could enhance the major goals of training: 1) improving job performance; 2) measuring effectiveness; 3) determining future training needs. I recently took a training course from an FAI-approved and DAU-certified Vendor for continuous learning points (CLPs) towards renewal of my FAC-C certification. The material was of decent quality; the instructor was knowledgeable; on paper, the students did great, since everyone received 100% on the test. The hidden academic integrity issues, however, hindered students’ ability to truly learn the material and reduced the importance of classes to merely checking off a box. To get the discussion started, here are a few solutions that I think could improve federal acquisition training (note that the problems apply towards both private and Government training providers): 1) Solution: Test answers closely guarded and pre-release harshly punished. Issue: Everyone must pass mentality. In nearly every FAI-approved training class, the instructor either specifically identified which questions would be on the test, or let us know to “highlight” a specific area in the text. In any other setting, this would be an academic integrity violation, with the professor being fired and students having to retake the test. In the Government academia, however, both the agencies and training provider have a mutual interest in ensuring everyone passes. To resolve this issue, FAI should suspend or debar training providers that release test questions or identify answers with an intent to violate the integrity of the test. Students that received training certification from a class in such an instance should be required to retake the class. 2) Solution: Closed book tests Issue: Open books as a crutch during testing Acquisition-related courses routinely allow students to use their notes and book during the test. Open book exams, especially combined with #1 above, teach students how to effectively find the correct page, and not employ deep knowledge. The open book presents a crutch for the student so that they do not need to memorize content. By not memorizing content, it reduces that student’s chance to retain the information after class, and does not reflect knowledge of material during test time. All classes should have closed book tests to measure knowledge. By having all tests as closed book, you force students to study and learn the training material and better apply that material on the job. 3) Solution: Training lasting the whole 8-hour day. Issue: Class ending early, but still providing the full CLPs All acquisition classes in the FAI/DAU framework include a number of CLPs. Those CLPs represent one hour of training. Training providers routinely let students out early on the last day, and sometimes on normal training days. One time, I was released from training at 11 a.m. while in a class that was supposed to end at 4 p.m. Students being released from training early is paramount to theft of taxpayer dollars. The agency paid for 40 hours of training but received only 34-36 hours. For any normal contract, you would send a show cause letter for why the Contractor failed to deliver as obligated. Further, it robs students of the opportunity to learn; during that four hours or more, the instructor could have provided additional instruction or a group activity to further hone the student’s knowledge. All classes should be the duration of their advertised CLPs or the training provider should provide a partial refund. Classes that were not of the duration of DAU/FAI-approved classes should not count towards certification. 4) Solution: Expanded test and individual scorecards after class. Issue: Training providers do not provide students and agencies with feedback for individual improvement. Currently, students receive one or two tests, usually ranging from 25 to 50 questions each, respectively. Standard DAU/FAI policy is to receive an 80-percent score on those tests, or the student is required to retake the incorrect portion of the test. Hardly anyone fails these tests (namely because of the issues in #1 and 2). Afterwards, the student received his or her percentage score. This score is meaningless to the student and the agency because it does not identify areas for improvement. Instead, tests questions should relate to specific categories, and results for those categories should be relayed back to those students with recommended additional training that could help enhance knowledge and improve effectiveness. Supervisors could use this information to target on-the-job training for employees. Please let me know what ideas you have to improve training.