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KeithB18

The sorry state of formalized contracting training

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I'm taking CON217 through a contractor this week, even though I took a similar course several years ago. (Somehow I did not receive a Level II certificate, so my agency has decided that I have to start over)

The instructor has spend the vast majority of the time pointing out the specific locations in the book where the final test questions are. The course title is cost analysis, but it wasn't until day 3 that we encountered actual cost elements. There are some math and statistics involved, but the contractor has provided spreadsheets that calculate the numbers automatically, thus students don't have to know exactly what the numbers are telling them.

The whole course is useless--I'm not confident that students who haven't encountered cost analysis would have much of an idea what it is. There's no discussion of the FAR at all...no Part 15, and certainly no discussion of 15.404©.

What a failure. It's depressing.

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Guest Vern Edwards

Keep good notes. When you finish, write a letter (not an email) to the president of the Defense Acquisition University and the Federal Acquisition Institute. Make specific criticisms of the course and the course session. Focus on content and teaching methods, not on the personality of the instructor. Set a tone of dispassionate criticism. Name the contractor. Provide the dates and location of the course, Send a copy to the Administrator, Office of Federal Procurement Policy, the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, the Director of FAI, the members of the FAI Board of Directors, your agency head, head of the contracting activity, and chief of the contracting office.

This is your chance to do something other than complain to sympathetic ears.

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Another troublesome thing I am seeing, is that with budget contraints some agencies are conducting more "in-house" training. It's not the type of training that will meet FAC certifications, but short speciality type sessions. On the face, it seems like a good idea, but after having attended several I have found the presenters seem lacking in technical expertise, and are instead making the presentations as a part of their own development program. So, they pass on less than accurate or complete information, but are patted on the back for stepping up to the podium.

That's one of the reasons I am so grateful to WIFCON. Not everyone who comments at WIFCON is an expert, but I'm able to tell good advice from bad.

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Vern,

The letters to OFPP and FAI are a good idea, but DAU doesn't teach CON 217 anymore.

KeithB18,

When it comes to formal contract training, my advice is to lower your expectations. If you are interested in learning, participate in this discussion forum. Ask questions, observe how others answer those questions, and answer the questions that you think you can handle. After a while, you'll develop good habits--like locating relevant source material, interpreting the material, drawing reasonable conclusions, and supporting your statements with references to relevant source material.

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I was wondering the same thing. If you're taking training to become Level II certified (presumably you are DoD since you're taking CON classes), why are you taking CON217? DAU scrapped the 215, 217, and 218 classes almost two years ago and changed the curriculum while adding additional classes. Your first gripe should be why you are being told to take the wrong version of the class. It's even worse that is useless in content as well.

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I was AD Air Force for several years but now I work for a civilian agency. I asked the instructor some questions as to where the course content is coming from, especially considering the instructor himself has said on multiple occassions that "This probably isn't relevant anymore," and he told me that the topics covered are mandated by DAU. I am in no position to ascertain the veracity of that statement.

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Interesting. I'm sure it is more course numbering than anything, and I would hope that if DAU was driving FAI course content that they provided FAI with the most up to date content after they supposedly revamped all of the courses (I haven't taken the new courses, so I could not provide comment on how well revamped they are).

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Guest Vern Edwards

The primary way to learn in this business is to buy or borrow and read books. Don't wait for someone to teach you. You'll be waiting a long time.

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On that note, I am focused on building up my personal library.

However, last year I proposed to my local leadership and my training officer that they standup a contracting office library in order to nurture junior COs. I provided them a preliminary list derived from suggestions pulled off the WIFCON contents page under reading. I pointed out that you would certainly expect to walk into a law firm and find a library just as you would expect a hospital to have a medical library on site. They thought it a valid point that contracting offices have a library commensurate with our needs.

"Recommended Books for Government Contracting Professionals".

http://www.wifcon.com/anal/RecommendedReading.pdf

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FAI did adapt most of the DAU courses to obtain a Level II with the exception of the ACQ courses. However, I see now that the DAWIA certification courses have changed. I can also tell you that I was much more impressed with the DAU training I received vs. the FAI training I received. When I went through my Level 2 the courses were delivered by former DoD 1102s, and these folks knew what they were doing. The FAI courses I attended were delivered by contractors and I was not impressed. I actually had the opporuntiy to correct the instructor a couple times privately about things he stated that were incorrect. Anyway, if you're curious, the two links below illustrate the differences, but you are correct that CON 217 is still required to get your 1102 Level 2 through FAI.

http://www.fai.gov/pdfs/fac_contracting_program.pdf

http://icatalog.dau.mil/onlinecatalog/CareerLvl.aspx?lvl=2&cfld=3

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On that note, I am focused on building up my personal library.

However, last year I proposed to my local leadership and my training officer that they standup a contracting office library in order to nurture junior COs. I provided them a preliminary list derived from suggestions pulled off the WIFCON contents page under reading. I pointed out that you would certainly expect to walk into a law firm and find a library just as you would expect a hospital to have a medical library on site. They thought it a valid point that contracting offices have a library commensurate with our needs.

"Recommended Books for Government Contracting Professionals".

http://www.wifcon.com/anal/RecommendedReading.pdf

Troy,

Kudos to you and your leadership.

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One issue that I am seeing is the amount of wait-listing for required CON classes. Yes, some agencies have the resources to have their own internal CON training schools/facilities. However, my agency does not have that, so I am at the mercy of scheduling and open chairs in classes. I have been wait-listed for CON 353 for months now because of a backlog. My agency requires this course in order to meet certain "career milestones" including the required Level III certification. Speaking of Level III...my agency has far too many contracting employees with Level III training, yet these same employees do not do anything even remotely near even Level II work. Why would an agency push for advanced contract training for employees that do basic-level contracting work?

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One issue that I am seeing is the amount of wait-listing for required CON classes. Yes, some agencies have the resources to have their own internal CON training schools/facilities. However, my agency does not have that, so I am at the mercy of scheduling and open chairs in classes. I have been wait-listed for CON 353 for months now because of a backlog. My agency requires this course in order to meet certain "career milestones" including the required Level III certification. Speaking of Level III...my agency has far too many contracting employees with Level III training, yet these same employees do not do anything even remotely near even Level II work. Why would an agency push for advanced contract training for employees that do basic-level contracting work?

Not to get into pay issues, but if they are GS-13 or above they are required to have Level III training. Granted, you would assume they would be doing work commesurate with their pay, but I think you can see where I am going with that...

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I worked DHS FOR 2 years and obtained my level 1 certification. Then I left to DOD for a promotion they do not recognize my level 1 cert from DHS. Furthermore they are telling me that I am going to have to take CON 090 and Con 170 to reclaim my level 1 certificate. However, I just received a call from one of the training managers and he said I could probably obtain credit for Con 090 via a fulfillment package. Does anyone have an example of a fulfillment package for Con 090 as I am unsure where to begin.

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I worked DHS FOR 2 years and obtained my level 1 certification. Then I left to DOD for a promotion they do not recognize my level 1 cert from DHS. Furthermore they are telling me that I am going to have to take CON 090 and Con 170 to reclaim my level 1 certificate. However, I just received a call from one of the training managers and he said I could probably obtain credit for Con 090 via a fulfillment package. Does anyone have an example of a fulfillment package for Con 090 as I am unsure where to begin.

Fulfilling 090 may be a bit hard for someone one year on the job, as you need to demonstrate how you've fulfilled each portion of the course through alternate training or work performed.

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Jason - There are others that no doubt can give more specific advice but here are a couple of ideas for you....

1. Go here and then look at links provided - http://icatalog.dau.mil/onlinecatalog/faq_catalog.asp

2. Do not forget to talk to someone in your specific DoD agency as internal agency needs may be more detailed than what is explained by the DAU reference above.

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The Feds take a (another) major step backward into infantilism. Now it appears we're teaching 1102s to use their fingers and thumbs instead of their brains. Of course, given the degradation of education and learning in the US over the past decade plus, I suppose one shouldn't be surprised.

http://www.nextgov.com/emerging-tech/emerging-tech-blog/2014/01/gsa-wants-use-computer-games-teach-contracting/76226/?oref=govexec_today_nl.

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I haven't seen anything GSA did but I hope it's along the lines of simulation that Carl's article described. What I have seen in the way of gaming for contracts is interesting. Some of it is infantile but other looks intriguing and I can see how it supplements other type education.

For example one scenario has a contract specialist/CO sitting at their desk when a program manager comes in with a newly planned procurement. The CO listens, a dialogue takes place with exchange of information, and the CO faces several options on next steps. The game asks for your input as the CO. You make a decision, state your rational, and the game evaluates and provides feedback.

Another example is you post a proposed non-competitive action in FedBizOpps. The game has an industry respondee going over their information. You listen, read, and evaluate the information and make a decision.

While this isn't as good as actual classroom involvment, it is better than many of the alternatives. All I can say is wait and see what develops.

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I have played games (i.e. performed exercises) involving languages, math, science and, most recently, information and personal security. However, if I hadn't read, studied and applied vocabulary, equations, formulas, or policy directives, the games merely entertained me and occupied my time. They didn't provide knowledge.

In the case of procurement "games", in my view, one cannot develop legal and effective tactics or strategies until such time as one possesses a knowledge of procurement fundamentals. Before one can address any issues raised by program managers or industry responders, one needs to know what the statutes and regulations say and mean.

I don't think that games can create the knowledge lacking in the procurement "profession" today.

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