DAHLGREN, Va. –
For employers like the United States Navy, where the highly talented workforce represent one of the institution’s strongest assets, finding talent to fill out the ranks of future Navy leaders takes on a special importance. Finding excellent people for those spots can be a challenge under normal circumstances, and with a nationwide labor shortage only further complicating the picture, recruitment efforts at Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) are finding ways to reach previously untapped reservoirs of talent.
“There are a lot of college-aged students that didn’t grow up next to a base,” observed Amy Richards, a long serving contracting officer at NSWCDD who led recent intern recruiting efforts within the contracting department. “If you don’t have an existing personal connection to someone in the military or an employee of the base, these positions may not automatically appear on the radar.” That dynamic prompted Richards to begin systematically reaching out to graduates from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to spread awareness about career opportunities at Dahlgren.
Richards is herself a proud alumni of Virginia State University (VSU) in Petersburg, and in December began speaking with students at VSU and other HBCUs with the assistance of colleagues Rolanda Wallace-Taylor and Kevin Wiggins II. There are several HBCUs located within the Dahlgren region which had not been specifically targeted in the past, including Virginia Union University, Norfolk State University, Old Dominion University, as well as Richards’ alma mater VSU.
The NSWCDD Contracting Department procures goods and services from the private sector on behalf of the six technical departments at Dahlgren. The team is composed of more than 100 employees and executes several thousand contract actions in a typical year with a collective value of approximately $950 million. Intern classes within the program typically number four to six employees.
“It's a great career field to get into for young people because there are always job opportunities and the potential for growth,” Richards explained, pointing specifically to candidates who are detail oriented and comfortable working with numbers. The nature of the work can also make it deeply meaningful for a service-minded individual. “It’s very fulfilling because we’re issuing contracts that provide solutions to the warfighter, providing a real benefit to the public and helping keep the world safe,” Richards said. “There is no paper pushing here. We put contracts in place that save lives.”
The incoming class of contracting interns will initially work with the Simplified Acquisition Group small dollar purchases to develop a level of familiarity with Navy contracting systems and the types of goods and services that are most frequently sought. During this period, interns are also exposed to contracting processes such as due diligence, rules and regulations, market research, terms and conditions, cost/price analysis and other set procedures that help ensure a good return on investment for the taxpayer.
Interns have the opportunity to tour the various departments around NSWCDD so that they can learn directly from personnel who rely each day on goods and services that come through the contracting department. “That gives you a different perspective,” Richards noted. “It could mean life or death to the warfighter.”
Internships at the NSWCDD Contracting Department are a three-year engagement organized through the Naval Development Program. The program includes structured management-training, formal education, diverse rotational assignments, extensive on-the-job training and graduate education tuition assistance. All interns are compensated financially for their time and are offered full-time employment at Dahlgren following the completion of their internship period.