GSA online training targets contract staff

The General Services Administration's Federal Acquisition Institute (FAI) Online University last month unveiled its Contracting Officer Representative (COR) Mentor program, which is composed of self-directed courses designed to train federal employees to work on the technical staffs of contracting officers.

"This helps prepare them to perform duties that a contracting officer might assign," said Gayle Messick, a procurement analyst at GSA who runs the FAI. "There are 18 duties, so we train to each duty."

Highly trained contracting officers handle every aspect of a contract, from the initial development to award to payment. But they often delegate parts of the job to technical staff members who have not had extensive training in every area. GSA developed the new courses as a way for these staff employees to get the training they need.

The Office of Federal Procurement Policy issued an endorsement of the courses, encouraging federal use. "The COR Mentor allows students to obtain knowledge and a certificate in each duty expeditiously or as time permits," according to a memo from OFPP Administrator Deidre Lee.

The duties and courses in the COR Mentor program, available at www.faionline.com/fai/cor/opframe.htm, include Post-Award Orientation, Inspection & Acceptance, Document Past Performance and Modifications. People who are not yet CORs—and even those looking to brush up on training—can take the courses, which are offered for free in 1999.

FAI ran a pilot of the COR Mentor program last summer; so far it has issued more than 2,500 certificates to federal employees who have completed the courses, Messick said.

"We just officially released it," she said. "But when we put it on the Internet, people just started finding it."

Early users of the courses include employees from the military services and the Transportation Department. FAI made several changes to the courses following the recommendations of those early users, and additions will be made in the future, Messick said.

FAI has been selected by the Government Information Technology Services Board as one of the winners of its Center of Excellence in Information Technology award.

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