In 2011, Veterans from across the country began a new career journey in the VA Acquisition Academy (VAAA) Acquisition Internship School’s Warriors to Workforce (W2W) Program. They came into the program not knowing what to expect. Many of them had their military career cut short by battlefield injuries and were left to answer the question, “What next?” The W2W Program was created to answer that question and provide returning wounded Veterans an opportunity to apply military experiences and highly-transferrable skills to the contract specialist career field within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and other federal government agencies. The holistic program leverages GI Bill benefits to meet mandatory college education requirements and provides extensive technical and business skills training, advanced biofeedback work, and mission service. It utilizes a cohort model that provides a built-in support system and network that mirrors the team environment and camaraderie Veterans experience in the military, easing the transition to the civilian professional world.
In their first year, the interns earn 36 college credits in business courses. To date, W2W participants have achieved a cumulative GPA of 3.5 in college level courses. At completion of year one, participants transition into existing career development programs, such as our award-winning Acquisition Intern Program (AIP). Through AIP, they go on to complete the education requirements to achieve a Federal Acquisition Certification in Contracting (FAC-C) Level II, which is recognized throughout the federal sector as evidence of a solid education in the professional career field.
One-hundred, twenty-seven wounded warrior Veterans have been hired into the W2W program to date, which includes VA as well as three other government agency participants. Ninety-four percent have completed the W2W Program. Three cohorts have successfully transitioned to the VA’s Acquisition Intern Program (AIP) and one to the VA’s Project Management Fellows (PMF) Program. One-hundred percent of the inaugural W2W cohort that graduated from AIP was placed permanently in the acquisition workforce across the country. They come from all across the country, represent all branches of service and, between them, earned 27 Purple Hearts, 46 Combat Action Ribbons and 6 Bronze Stars.
“Veterans display many of the attributes that are important in contracting like trust, integrity, teamwork, problem solving, and leadership. They are quick learners and have a unique connection with the mission of serving Veterans,” said Acquisition Internship School Vice-Chancellor, Stephanie Belella, who oversees the program. “Supervisors in the field offices where they conduct job rotations and are ultimately integrated into the acquisition workforce often remark, ‘We wish we could clone them.’”
The undertaking supports VAAA’s mission of recapitalizing the acquisition workforce and the VA’s commitment to Veteran employment.
“The program offers new optimism and confidence to our returning wounded warriors and provides a great source of talent for the federal workforce," remarked Belella. “It’s mutually beneficial and rewarding and I am privileged to be a part of it.”
More information about VA’s Acquisition Academy is available on the Internet at www.acquisitionacademy.va.gov.