On March 29, 2013, the Contracting Education Academy at Georgia Tech wrapped up a highly successful four-week course for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in New Orleans, La.
Entitled “FAR Fundamentals,” the course covers all 53 chapters and 2,000 pages of the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR). The FAR is the federal government’s contracting rule book.
The Corps of Engineers contracted with the Academy to train 12 of its project and office engineers who are in charge of managing construction contractors in the New Orleans district. The engineers engaged the Academy because they want to become more adept at correctly interpreting and applying federal contracting rules.
“Construction engineers play an important role by interfacing with both the contracting office and individual contractors,” explained Donna Bertrand, the Academy’s program manager. “In addition to making sure that the work is being performed correctly, they act as the contracting office’s eyes and ears in the field.” Bertrand managed the course implementation during the entire four weeks, including the administration of 12 quizzes and four exams.
The Academy, an official equivalency training provider for the Defense Acquisition University (DAU), adapted the FAR Fundamentals course to the Corps’ needs by developing training exercises and materials around real-life scenarios.
“The FAR is an extremely detailed and complicated subject matter,” said Chuck Schadl, group manager for government contracting services. “In presenting this course, we used every creative approach we could think of to hold the students’ interest and enable learning.”
Some of the teaching techniques utilized included:
- Creation of a deck of 53 playing cards, corresponding with each of the FAR’s 53 chapters, enabling students to use them as flash cards to learn the FAR’s structure and parts.
- Using games – adapted from the board game “Scattergories” and the TV show “Jeopardy”— to stimulate student participation in the classroom, encourage competition, and help students prepare for testing.
- Introduction of special web page of contracting resources – consisting of templates, case studies, and other electronic tools – created exclusively for the Corps’ students.
- Providing small prizes –Georgia Tech memorabilia — to reward student accomplishments at key points in the course.
- Daily review of contracting news items to illustrate the importance of the acquisition profession and why it’s necessary to stay current.
The Academy’s lead instructor for this course was Clarence Roberts, a retired DAU professor and former federal contracting officer. Clarence’s instructional style is lively and engaging, and students frequently stated their appreciation for his willingness to listen to different approaches to contracting. “We try to instill in students the fact that, while the FAR may have a rule for everything, there frequently is more than one correct way to handle contracting situations,” Roberts pointed out.
Students of the FAR Fundamentals course earn 13.3 Continuing Education Units, or 133 Continuous Learning Points, that can be used to satisfy federal training requirements.
“We hope that this will be only the first of many more on-site engagements where we bring the Academy’s coursework to government agencies,” Bertrand concluded. “In this time of budget austerity, agencies are looking for ways to trim travel budgets, especially.”
For more details on the Academy, including the courses and services offered, please see www.ContractingAcademy.gatech.edu.
Shown below: The Academy’s instructors and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ officials celebrate completion of the four-week FAR Fundamentals class.