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SMC Charts New Territory with Jump Start Contract Training

LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- The Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base has developed an innovative Jump Start Training program for contracting trainees. The intensive three-week introductory course was created as a result of the far-reaching vision of Joy White, SMC's director of Contracting.

In July 2009, Ms. White stood up a new contracting division, SMC/PKM, dedicated in large part to mentoring and career development of SMC's contracting workforce. Keenly aware of the need for a comprehensive program run by an expert staff, Ms. White hired three top-notch senior leaders for SMC/PKM - Director, William Trombetta, Candice Gill, and Rosemary Heredy. With an aggregate of 80 plus years of government contracting experience, the SMC/PKM trio achieved the lofty goal of welcoming the inaugural Jump Start class in September 2009 and a subsequent class followed in January 2010.

Timing was of the essence. SMC was in-processing the largest influx of contracting trainees ever in a single year. In previous years, contracting trainees came on board in the single digits. This time, more than 70 were expected. The first group of trainees in September would also face numerous challenges. The contracting workforce was stressed by a high operations tempo, an Inspector General visit, and end-of-Fiscal-Year contract actions. On-the-job training would be next to impossible given these constraints.

After researching similar programs at Hanscom AFB, Wright-Patterson AFB and Hill AFB, the PKM trio recruited SMC's senior leaders to teach the Jump Start curriculum. Directors, deputies and contracting officers across all functional disciplines as well as senior leaders from the DCMA, DCAA and industry showed commitment to developing the workforce by teaching 90-minute sessions complete with custom slides. SMC was on its way to success and today Jump Start comprises more than 55 separate briefings with upwards of 80 presenters.

Unique features extend beyond typical briefing sessions. Hands-on labs allow students to work a simulated contract modification from start to finish and perform price analyses. A panel of senior leaders from companies such as Lockheed-Martin, Boeing, and Northrop Grumman provides insights into the "other side of the table."

Team-building events are also scheduled into the vigorous curriculum allowing for a little "fun" and networking. Students participate in the traditional "Air Force Coin ceremony," a sporting event (e.g. volleyball/bowling) with deputies and directors, a base-wide scavenger hunt, lunch with previous trainees, and a session with military contract specialists who have recently returned from deployment.

Thanks to SMC's Jump Start Training programs trainees no longer arrive at their wings with a "blank slate." They come equipped with a breadth of knowledge and innumerable resources. Ms. White has also extended invitations beyond SMC resulting in Edwards AFB sending three attendees to the January class. As SMC prepares to launch a third Jump Start class they continue to make improvements based on feedback from students and Directors.

SMC/PKM will continue to invigorate the entire SMC Contracting workforce, trainees and journeymen alike. Newly-improved PK University and mentoring will be available to all. With a large vacuum looming as retirement-eligible employees begin to resign, the need for the ongoing development of SMC's contracting workforce will remain of utmost importance.