A STUDY IN THE PROFESSIONALIZATION OF CIVILIAN CONTRACT MANAGERS IN THE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE: THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN EDUCATIONAL ATTAINMENT AND JOB PROFICIENCY

The 2012 dissertation essentially validated the “DAWIA” framework, which groups levels of education, training, and experience into certification levels. The DoD requires a bachelor’s degree and states that the desired level of education is a business or “procurement-related” master’s degree; therefore, education experiences were grouped into five buckets: (1) No degree, (2) bachelors in an area other than business, (3) bachelor’s in business, (4) graduate degree in an area other than business, and (5) graduate degree in business — the “MBA types.” Having no degree was associated with lower competency scores; supervisors agreed. Having the education experiences in 2, 3, and 4 above, was associated with the same level of competency scores; supervisors agreed. Having an “MBA type” education was associated with the highest competency scores; again, supervisors agreed.

Certification data were used instead of training data. DAWIA’s three certification levels reflect a combination of education, training, and experience. DAWIA certification levels are I, II, and III, from lowest to highest. Level I certification was associated with LOWER COMPETENCY SCORES THAN HAVING NO CERTIFICATION; supervisors agreed. Level III certification was highly associated with higher competency scores; again, supervisors agreed. Findings showed that greater years of experience (grouped into five year cohorts) were associated with higher levels of competency for each successive experience cohort; supervisors agreed.

Factor analysis sorted the 62 cohorts into five larger competency groups. These groups agreed with the standard administrative groupings of competencies, which organize competencies into the contracting process. Factor analysis supports the conclusion that competencies are a factor of the process, i.e., contracting is a process-oriented profession. We gain competencies in the processes we repeat. For the DoD, competencies are less determined as a factor of “mathematical” or “verbal” aptitude. In other words, if numbers are challenging for a contract specialist who must perform pricing, that specialist will gain ENOUGH PROFICIENCY to do the basic pricing work associated with the procurement processes that he/she routinely encounters.

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