Too much training still leaves interns inexperienced

Managers dealing with highly certified employees who still need supervision, intervention from more experienced contracting officers

Federal procurement officials face the puzzle of fitting together a shortage of acquisition employees, plenty of interns, and their quick advancement in training in the contracting field, officials say.

New employees get vigorous training programs to get them up to speed on how to do acquisition. Meanwhile, experts say those interns are trained but still lack the actual experience that equates to that high level of training.

Hugh Hurwitz, the senior procurement executive and deputy chief financial officer at the Education Department, said his office is wrestling with that problem, and it’s forced to make tough and risky decisions. He was on a panel on acquisition workforce issues at the Interagency Resource Management Conference on March 15.

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Hurwitz said Education officials carefully consider whether or not to promote an employee who is eligible for the move, instead of simply advancing the worker to the next rung.

“We’ve taking the position that we’re not going to compromise on our standards,” he said.

However, “we’re in a tough spot, because we’re going to lose somebody we’ve invested a lot in,” he said, but officials from other agencies are willing to get the certified employee, despite the lack of experience.

Meanwhile, many employees who have moved on from Education say they realized later they needed more experience before taking the new position, he said.

Deborah O’Neill, director of the analysis division of the NASA's Office of Procurement, said interns must have six months between their training sessions.

Some people take classes very often, so much so they’re frequently out of the office, O’Neill said.

By slowing the training process, employees are putting what they’ve learned into practice before going onto the next level of certification, she said.

“We’ve tried to hold firm on that because we’ve heard from some instructors that some folks just weren’t ready to be in the class,” O’Neill said.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.


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