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The Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center is looking for candidates to strengthen its workforce.

This is the season where representatives from the center attend conferences and visit college campuses across 16 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. The major events include the Great Minds in STEM conference in September in Lake Buena Vista, Florida; the 2019 Women of Color STEM Conference held in October in Detroit, Michigan; and the Society of Women Engineers’ 2019 conference in November in Anaheim, California.

The recruiting opportunities are more than just a means of collecting resumes; they are a critical piece to ensuring the center is able to deliver collaborative and innovative aviation and missile capabilities to the warfighter. At the center’s Systems Simulation, Software and Integration Directorate, it can take three to seven years for a new engineer to get up to speed on the technology and systems that S3I supports, according to Dan Coombs, S3I associate director for modeling and simulation.

“When you get those troughs where you’re not (actively recruiting), and when you think about the time it takes to develop skills, you can’t just bring somebody in and, within six months, they’re an expert in anything,” Coombs said. “You can’t have a three- to five-year lull in hiring because, as time moves, that lull moves with you. When you get a bunch of retirements, now you’re left with a very thin core of people, and that’s what we’re trying to rebuild from.”

Due to required candidate background checks and security clearance investigations, the federal government application and hiring process can be lengthy. CCDC and its subordinate labs and centers are looking to expedite the process by using talent acquisition software and having hiring managers attend the conferences. These managers have job openings they’re looking to fill and are encouraged to conduct job interviews on-site, even offering a candidate a tentative job offer on the spot.

Amanda Compton, the center’s program analyst and student program manager, said the managers in attendance who are interviewing candidates are also preparing the candidates for a smooth onboarding process. “(They) let the students know what is expected of them in the upcoming weeks. Once a recruitment action is submitted, the students will be contacted and given various forms to complete. It is then the student’s responsibility to complete and return all required documentation as quickly as possible. Any time we can save is beneficial, because hiring in the government takes a long time. It’s not a quick process.”

Still, efforts are being made to improve the hiring process. As a scientific technology research laboratory, the center has been granted Direct Hiring Authority for students currently enrolled in a bachelor or higher degree related to a science, technology, engineering or math course of study, as well as graduates with a STEM-related bachelor’s degree or higher, or qualified veterans in a STEM-related field.

These hiring authorities allow the center to enhance their recruiting efforts, Compton said. “Managers realize that we have to build our bench and recruit younger talent to ensure we have the workforce in place to continue to provide support to the warfighter. By attending various recruiting events we not only recruit talent, we educate students, faculty and attendees on our capabilities. It is amazing how many people do not realize the civilian employment opportunities within the Army.”

“It was a critical problem,” Coombs said. “We were in dire straits because we had not been hiring any volume of incoming employees. We had a gap.”

Diversity is also a factor in attending events. “We want to expand our diversity within (the center),” Compton said. “But we also want to expand where we go in the geographic locations, because you get a mechanical engineer from UAH, they’re going to have different skills and talents than a mechanical engineer from a school up North. We want to make sure we have a good diverse group of engineers.”

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