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OMB Is Taking a New Look at Learning Strategy

Tuesday, September 8, 2015
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When I started out in my acquisition career more than 30 years ago, there were no certification programs. When acquisition certification programs were first developed, they were welcomed by the acquisition workforce, and traditional, instructor-led classroom training was the norm. This approach was good for the time, but fast-forward to today, and many are lacking.  

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is taking a fresh look at creative and innovative ways to help employees gain expertise. For example, OMB employees today embrace “just-in-time” learning, such as five-minute educational videos or short podcasts with experts. A few years ago, we initiated topical webinars, which clocked in at an hour or more in length. 

One of our takeaways from last year’s Association for Talent Development Government Workforce conference was that learning through short bursts of information is more palatable than hours watching a computer screen. Consequently, we are piloting what we call “Knowledge Nuggets,” two- or three-minute educational videos consisting of a simple whiteboard with writing and pictures.  

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OMB also is looking at free educational content available on the Internet that can be effective in helping our workforce learn. Case in point: I recently came across content produced by Stanford University professor Dr. Tina Seelig, the Executive Director of Stanford’s School of Engineering’s entrepreneurship center. Dr. Seelig has some very interesting and publicly available videos on innovation, which is a topic I’ve been wrestling with recently.  In just six minutes, my whole perspective on innovation changed and I understood how to better tackle some of my initiatives around innovation in the acquisition workforce space. 

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An exciting initiative I’m working on alongside Traci Walker of the U.S. Digital Service is the Digital Service Contracting Professional Training and Development Program Challenge, in which we engage the public to help us transform the way we build digital expertise within the sphere of federal contracting professionals.  After calling for concept papers and getting a good response, our panel of judges chose three finalists who are busy creating a detailed program design. 

These designs will be presented to our judges in both an oral presentation and a mock classroom session that will showcase one element of their proposed program. Experts in the field of training and development told us our focus should be on learning, not just training. What’s more, we should engage the learners all the time, not just in the classroom.  We listened and we’re exploring these concepts in our effort to foster transformative change in the acquisition culture.  

What innovative professional education methods have made an impact in your organization? to discuss further,  join me for the “Problem Solving in Three Dimensions: Training for the Future” panel at the Government Workforce: Learning Innovations conference. 

About the Author

Joanie F. Newhart has more than 30 years’ experience in federal government contracting. For nearly five years, she has been the associate administrator for acquisition workforce programs at the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) within the Office of Management and Budget and Executive Office of the President. OFPP is responsible for developing and implementing acquisition policies to support more than $450 billion in federal procurements each year. Joanie has held previous roles at the U.S Securities and Exchange Commission, the Department of Transportation, and other government agencies. She has master’s degrees in strategic studies and business administration.

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