JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas –
For the first time in 31 years, enlisted contracting personnel, or Mission-Focused Business Leaders, no longer need to complete additional, repeat training to become certified on the job.
Tech. Sgt. Dakota Powell, a Contracting Apprentice Course instructor, spearheaded certificate fulfillment for the 37th Training Group’s Contracting Apprentice Course, saving an annual $1.6 million and 44,000 training hours in 80 squadrons every year, from here on out.
According to Powell, the contracting instructor team at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland revamped the course in 2019, narrowing the content into a lean, potent class that gets to the heart of ethically and effectively spending taxpayer dollars.
The effort transitioned the schoolhouse to the next generation, web-based contract writing system, Contracting Information Technology, and it better equipped contracting personnel to enter their career field right out of training. However, in order to receive the necessary certifications, the Airmen still had to complete additional courses that often repeated what they already learned in the Contracting Apprentice Course.
Fast forward to February 2022, when the Department of Defense pushed out new training requirements for the entire career field and offered certifications to graduates immediately after the course, eliminating the need for the repeat, follow-on instruction. When the DoD released its new requirements, Powell and his team compared the content to the revamped 2019 Contracting Apprentice Course and found that 90% overlapped.
Immediately, Powell began working to not only make sure every future graduate of the Contracting Apprentice Course receives certification at graduation, but also retroactively certify all students who graduated from the course since 2019. His plan worked, and 277 personnel received certification, saving the Air Force 186 training hours and $7,000 per student.
“The impact this has on the career field cannot be overstated,” said Senior Master Sgt. Jonathan Carter, the Contracting Training Flight Chief. “Powell’s work eliminated the backlog of Mission-Focused Business Leaders, relieving the stress on units around the world in need of certified contracting personnel.”
According to Carter, about 20% of the career field was previously ineligible to deploy because, although they possessed all the necessary knowledge, they were waiting for follow-on instruction to receive official certification. This new retroactive certification and the ability to certify at graduation fixed that problem and increased available personnel for tasking.
“It’s been a great opportunity to serve my career field,” Powell said. “I’ve always loved contracting. I love developing knowledge and thinking about things differently.”
According to Powell, Airmen from the field have reached out to the schoolhouse to express their appreciation for the certification fulfillment, and to comment on how much time and money it has saved. Additionally, the team here has begun conversations with sister schoolhouses across the DoD to guide teams looking for similar certification fulfillments.