The Department of Veterans Affairs operates an academy designed to help both the agency and veterans; the VA Acquisition Academy or VAAA is an institution created by the federal government to meet a “growing acquisition workforce challenge” according to the VA.
Among the reasons for the creation of this academy; addressing the issues created by a decade of downsizing, the loss of thought leaders and experienced acquisition professionals, and attrition due to retirements. The academy is also a response to increased oversight of acquisition concerns across the whole of the federal government.
The VAAA operates a set of professional schools including the following as described by the VA official site:
- Acquisition Internship School
- Contracting Professional School
- Program Management School
- Facilities Management School
- Supply Chain Management School
There are a variety of goals for these programs and their graduates, including:
- Creating a “best in class” workforce employing acquisition professionals acting as “trusted business advisors”;
- Offering electives in each school that addresses a variety of competencies such as innovation, leadership, team building, communication, and interpersonal skills;
- Achieving consistency and standardization in “performing the acquisition function that is grounded by the Federal Acquisition Regulation’s (FAR) Guiding Principles”;
- Ending the compartmentalization between program and contracting offices “to create ‘acquisition teams’.
The Acquisition Internship School
This school features a pair of training programs that lead to entry-level careers in federal acquisitions with the VA or other federal agencies. These programs, the Acquisition Intern Program (AIP) and the Warriors to Workforce (W2W) Program, are described on the VA official site as being “competency-based and include the technical training required for the Federal Acquisition Certifications in Contracting (FAC-C), levels I and II.” Both classroom work and on-the-job training are included.
Contracting Professional School
The Contracting Professional School, also referred to as CPS, offers classwork needed to “obtain the Office of Federal Procurement Policy’s (OFPP) Federal Acquisition Certification in Contracting (FAC-C) at Levels I, II, and III”.
There are specialized tracks and course electives including, but not limited to:
- Best value source selection
- Federal appropriations law
- Strategic sourcing
The Contracting Professional School pairs with vendors to incorporate civilian and “VA-specific case studies.” CPS offers core technical contracting courses, but also:
- Interpersonal skills
This school also includes a program for senior leadership, known as Senior Acquisition Leadership Training (SALT), described by the VA official site as a program designed to give senior leadership training in leadership competencies rather than technical ones, “creating leaders who are agile, understand themselves and others, think critically and strategically to get results, communicate effectively, and are able to manage and lead change.”
Program Management School
The Program Management School trains federal program and project managers, incorporating the development requirements from the Office of Management and Budget in its certification training.
That said, the VA official site states that this certification “is not intended to confer qualification for any specific assignment as a program or project manager within an agency, as the assignment of personnel is an agency-specific function, but provides a structured approach to developing program and project managers.”
Who should consider attending the Program Management School? Anyone with “significant involvement in one or more phases of the acquisition investment process” such as design, development, implementation, maintenance, evaluation, etc.
Managers with oversight over the acquisition investment process in multiple phases, those operating with cross-agency projects, and those involved in project teams are also encouraged to look into the training offered by the Program Management School.
Facilities Management School
The Facilities Management School (FMS) offers courses, workshops, seminars, and online information intended to help “achieve better results in requirements planning, project design and delivery, construction, project activations, facility operations and maintenance, and leadership and innovation.” This school also focuses on workplace safety, infection control risk mitigation, sustainability, compliance, and related areas. The school addresses several “core competency areas” including:
- Regulatory/Code Compliance
- Planning, Design, Construction, and Activation
- Operations and Maintenance
- Facility Safety
- Financial Stewardship
Supply Chain Management School
The Supply Chain Management School’s (SCMS) training program addresses five “general competencies” and fourteen technical competencies on several professional levels:
- Professional Level I (GS 1-6/ WG 6 and below)
- Professional Level II (GS 7-11/ WG 7 and above, All WS/ WL grades)
- Professional Level III (GS 12-15)
This training includes classroom training and distance learning “integrating VA-centric scenarios and industry best practices” to train students to work efficiently in the supply chain. Technical competencies addressed by the school include, but are not limited to:
- Supply Chain Fundamentals
- VA Property / Equipment Management
- VA Supply Chain Information Technology
- Management Systems
- VA Strategic Programs
- Forecast & Demand Planning
- Supply Planning
- Inventory Management
- Physical Distribution
- Transportation Operations
- Maintenance Operations
- Production & Support
- Integrated Lifecycle Logistics Support
- Configuration Management
- Reliability and Maintainability Analysis
Potential students will be asked to evaluate their current level of professional expertise and their current professional level for purposes of being assigned to the proper coursework.
VAAA Course Requirements
The requirements to sign up for these programs vary depending on the school, but in many cases a Bachelor’s degree is required, or a certain number of college credits in business courses. A degree in those cases is not necessarily required-the Acquisitions program only requires 24 credit hours in business to sign up, for example.
You can learn about the specific school requirements for registration at the VA official site. VA employees have a different set of sign-up requirements than non-VA employees, so it’s crucial to review the VA official site to determine what may apply to you as a veteran, VA employee, non-VA hire, etc.
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