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NEWS | Oct. 25, 2018

VSU offers DCMA local source of young talent

By Thomas Perry DCMA Public Affairs

In what could be the first steps of a cross-organizational internship opportunity, Defense Contract Management Agency Director Navy Vice Adm. David Lewis toured the historic Virginia State University campus and met with academic leaders and students Oct. 1.

“We have not been over here to recruit for internships, so this is new,” said Lewis. “This is a getting-acquainted process to see if there’s something here that we could work on together. I think there is great opportunity. We have 25 intern positions to fill nationwide. So if we get one, two, or three here — that would be great. If we can’t work it out this year, we will have 25 more spots next year, but from what I saw of the school today, there is clearly an opportunity to work together.”

Driven by a Department of Defense effort to streamline acquisition and support modernization acceleration, a DCMA contingent of recruiting and equal employment opportunity professionals joined Lewis for the visit. The group hoped to establish the foundation of a regional internship pipeline, which would be supplied by VSU’s business and engineering students.

“Our students are top-notch and take any work opportunity seriously,” said Anita Coleman-Wynn, VSU’s director of Internships and Special Projects for the Office of the Provost. “They are either Dean’s List, Provost or Presidential Scholars with GPAs of 3.0 or better. Our students are committed. We make sure they get experiential learning. You’re going to get students who look at these internships as possible employment opportunities in the future, and I think you will find our students have a passion to represent VSU the way that our president wants it represented.”

The visit began in VSU President Makola Abdullah’s office, as he and Lewis discussed each’s organizational mission as well as the internships. Lewis and his team were then taken to VSU’s College of Engineering and Technology for a brief from Dr. Benedict Uzochukwu, the VSU Department of Technology chair and associate professor.

“Today is a day of new beginnings,” said Uzochukwu. “We want to expand our partnerships. We want to expand our opportunity for students.”

That expansion is not without Defense precedent, as VSU has partnered with other DoD organizations through internships.

Uzochukwu said VSU currently has four students interning with the DoD’s Test Resource Management Center. The university also has several students with internships at Defense Logistics Agency, and two students who had internships with the Naval Sea Systems Command.

For DCMA recruiters, a key aspect of the visit involved clarifying misconceptions regarding public sector employment.

“As a federal workforce recruiter, one of the greatest challenges is overcoming the assumption that the agency and its employees are a part of the military,” said Ernest Smith, a DCMA recruiter for the east region. “However, once our mission is explained and the vital role of supporting the fighting forces and our impact on our national defense is fully understood, candidates are excited by career opportunities. College events such as the VSU visit are instrumental for introducing both professors and students to DCMA. This directly aligns with our goal of becoming known as an employer of choice.”

Young professionals looking to join DCMA’s workforce have many options in addition to internships, including the agency’s Keystone program, which is designed to develop technically-skilled, journeyman-level team members.

As a three-time intern with the Army Research Laboratory in Adelphi, Maryland, Kendall Ellison, a VSU senior majoring in Mechanical Engineering Technology, is more familiar with federal service than a typical college student. He said he would consider public sector service, especially if he could work with children.

“During my internship, I got to work with middle-school and elementary kids and teach them the positive outcomes when it comes to additive manufacturing,” he said.

Ellison said he chose VSU because he was excited to “get his hands dirty” on the many technology-driven projects offered at the university such as a fully-functioning race car and a drone.

“Since I’m a senior, I can work on senior-project design,” he said. “My task is to work on this drone, because as you can see it’s a little bit massive and the batteries can pretty much only last from one to four hours. (But our goal) is to downsize it and find easier materials to use such as 3D printing, because additive manufacturing is the way to go now. I have been working at the Army Research Laboratory for about three years now and that was my last task to work with quadcopters and conductive filaments to make pretty much a fully 3D printed quadcopter.”

Lewis believes improving inefficiencies and enhancing workflow performance is one role potential interns could fill within his warfighter support agency.

“We live in production. That’s our world,” said Lewis. “A lot of our contracts are sole source so they’re non-competed, which provides an opportunity for things to become more efficient. Having that outside look at a company to say ‘wait a minute you have too many people here, you’re not being efficient there, you’re not being modern over here to drive down cost because there isn’t that competitive market pressure in that part of our business,’ — that is invaluable.”

Benjamin Stansfield, a VSU senior majoring in manufacturing engineering with a minor in computer science and mathematics, provided Lewis a behind-the-scenes tour of many of the Tech schools key projects. He was excited to share his team’s work and surprised by the admiral’s interaction.

“I thought it was pretty fun. Definitely not what I was expecting. I kind of expected everyone to be in uniforms and kind of strict, like you see on TV, but is was more laid back than I expected,” he said.

The Reginald F. Lewis College of Business was the final stop on the campus tour. Lewis was afforded the opportunity to speak with business students and academic leaders in an auditorium setting. He concluded his speech with a message of service.

“I would ask you all to look at government employment in general, if not at DCMA” said the 39-year Navy veteran. “It is a rewarding job. You are providing weapons and services to the warfighter, and defending the taxpayer. Sure, you could be making potato chips or tennis shoes. These are perfectly honorable things to do and make. There is no sin in that, but when you are making weapons that defend America, it is a different kind of thing. To me, it’s a higher calling. Probably some of your family members are in the military — I see at least one uniform here. We put weapons in the hands of Marines, Soldiers, Airman and Sailors, and if it doesn’t work that’s on us. To me, that is a special responsibility. We deliver product to the warfighter, and we make sure it is right. That’s our mission.”

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