Agency acquisition employees continue professional development virtually

By Connie Braesch DLA Energy Public Affairs

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Defense Logistics Agency acquisition employees are continuing professional development during the COVID-19 pandemic with virtual instruction by Defense Acquisition University.

More than 200 employees – over 50 from DLA Energy – have completed DAU training since the university converted some of its face-to-face courses to online instruction March 23. 

DLA Energy has about 760 acquisition-coded employees in contracting, logistics and quality making up nearly 65% of its workforce. DAU training helps them meet requirements for basic, intermediate or advanced Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act certification depending on their position and responsibilities. 

DAWIA certification is a cornerstone of DLA’s business standards and accountable processes, said Gabby Earhardt, who heads contracting for DLA Energy.

“It lays a foundation for the training, education and experience employees need to perform trustworthy and reliable acquisition responsibilities,” she said.

Imani Mitchell is a part of the DLA Energy acquisition workforce development team helping employees manage their certifications and training requirements amid DAU course changes. 

“Online instruction is not new to DAU, but COVID-19 definitely pushed them to convert more of their courses to virtual platforms,” she said. 

DAU officials were already working to transition training offered in almost 100 campus classrooms to online instruction when they began monitoring disruptions posed by COVID-19. After campuses closed March 18, faculty converted about half the classes scheduled for the following week to virtual, instructor-led courses. 

“More of our students are asking for online courses to quickly gain information and training as they need it,” DAU President James Woolsey said. “We are continuing to pursue new technologies and methods that allow us to offer more relevant and timely training options.” 

Mitchell, also in the contracting career field, used virtual instruction to complete the last course for her Level III Contracting certification April 2. The eight-day course was originally a face-to-face residential course.

“I knew that I wouldn’t be eligible for other career and development opportunities until I satisfied my conditions for employment,” she said. “There are a few trainings, conferences and even deployments that I want to apply for, and I didn’t want my lack of certification to be a barrier.”

Logging in from Kaiserslautern, Germany, to a virtual class in Maryland, Sammy Sobah II completed the four-day Intermediate Systems Acquisition course March 27 and is taking Product Support Strategy Development May 4-8. As a DLA Energy Europe & Africa lead customer account specialist, he’s required to complete Level III Life Cycle Logistics certification and has two courses remaining.

“Although I understood that attending this training virtually meant I would stay up late into the night because of the time difference, it was important to my career to press forward with this instruction online,” Sobah said. 

Shonda Rizo from DLA Energy Aerospace said her class was interactive, using breakout rooms for team tasks and the main room for presentations. Rizo, who manages requirements and orders for helium, received her Level II Life Cycle Logistics certification April 29 after completing the five-day Product Support Strategy Development course virtually April 17. 

At DLA’s request, DAU also moved mandatory audit readiness training online for the first time since the course began in 2015. Thirty-seven DLA Energy employees completed the five-day course on determining fairness and reasonableness using cost analysis methods April 24. 

“Four sessions had been cancelled and more were at risk because of COVID-19 restrictions,” said David Wallis, a contract cost analyst and DLA Headquarters liaison to DAU. “When the lead instructor reached out to do a trial run for the DLA class virtually, we were enthusiastically all for it since the course is required for all contracting series employees by December 2020.”    

Students said they are adapting to and grateful for the online training, but most agreed it’s not a long-term solution. Mitchell and Rizo said they prefer a classroom environment as it lends to easier participation and discussion. They appreciated instructors’ efforts to keep students engaged and sharing in a virtual environment, however.

DLA Energy Acquisition Workforce Development Division Chief Ditu Kasuyi applauded employees’ flexibility and DAU staff for continuing training, stressing that DAWIA certification isn’t just a “nice to have.”

“It is an important part of building the acquisition professional’s ability to support the mission and the warfighter,” he said. “The transition to virtual learning was unexpected, but we’ve been able to pivot quickly and help our teammates adapt to their new virtual learning environments.”