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Veterans Affairs Acquisition Academy (VAAA)


CLIMB (Collaborate. Lead. Influence. Motivate. Build.)

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Check FAI’s Cornerstone on Demand for Upcoming Course Dates

On this page:
Program Benefits  |  Purpose  |  Program Structure  |  Contact

Introducing the CLIMB Program

CLIMB is a two-week introductory leadership program designed for the acquisition workforce. The CLIMB program is designed for participants to build a foundational leadership skillset, incorporate critical thinking through systems thinking, create a culture of learning and accountability, and develop confidence to drive outcomes using interpersonal skills. The class culminates with participants delivering a brief individual presentation on how specific assigned leadership skills may be applied to benefit their leadership journey and team.

CLIMB launched in April 2021 with great success and has been delivered to over 400 participants from many government agencies including VA, Department of Energy, Department of Justice, Department of Transportation, General Services Administration, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Institute for Health, National Park Service, and Department of Treasury. It is also a required class for FAI’s Mid-Level Leadership Credential and offered as part of the VA Acquisition Academy’s Program Management Fellows Program. Currently, open registration for VA participants occurs on Cornerstone on Demand. Supervisors of interested participants from other agencies should contact FAI Program Manager Jordan Manos to request additional information.

Our CLIMB participants have provided tremendous feedback that has helped VAAA to deliver an award-winning class. Here’s what some of our CLIMB participants have shared:

“Great class. I think the topic is worth sharing to all employees not just leaders and those seeking leadership positions. I think CLIMB (information & the way it was presented) can be a stepping stone to improved relationships between workers and (low-mid level) leaders. The more the employee understands the big picture and mission of leadership, I think it will empower all employees to set and strive to do and be better.”

“I am honored to be the first in being part of the piloting of this course. The feedback received from the class overall will help bridge gaps on the participants and provide a means to reflect on their leadership style, to enable them to learn, grow, lead, influence others, motivate others and build an even better leadership Acquisition Workforce.”

“I cannot say enough good things about this course! Before every course I think everyone has the questions of, what's it going to be like, how's it going to work and etc. The CLIMB Team completely to those anxious feelings away that first day. What I loved about this course is how it was structured. With virtual classes a lot of times it’s hard to draw that line in the sand and pull yourself away from work. For me, on Day 1, that line was drawn in the sand, and that is due to how the course was structured. The active engagement, participation, independent time, group time were just key to having this course be successful and I am just truly appreciative of that. This structure felt like we were in a physical classroom and not virtual. Great job! I’m leaving feeling refreshed and recharged and excited to get to back and begin implementing what I learned!”

Who will benefit the most from CLIMB?

People who want to make a difference and start leading from where they are!

CLIMB is geared to GS-11 — GS-13 members of the Acquisition Workforce

CLIMB participants are highly interested in taking what they learn about foundational leadership concepts and applying their own strengths, traits, and experience in order to determine how they can lead from where they are to best serve the agency mission, their customer, and their career goals. The program involves active participation and collaboration; therefore, participants must be available fulltime throughout the two-week duration.

The Contracting Professional School at the Veterans Affairs Acquisition Academy has developed the leadership training to meet acquisition workforce needs beyond CLIMB’s GS 11-13 audience. The FCL-VA-0207 Finding the Leader in You (FLY) class meets the needs of GS 7-9 members of the acquisition workforce and the award-winning SALT leadership program meets the needs of Supervisory 1102s and Program/Project Managers.

CLIMB is free for VA Acquisition employees.

Why are we CLIMB-ing?

In 2019, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs signed a memo asking all VA team members to be active participants in their professional development. This sparked an initiative to further invest in talent at VA with strategic and impactful professional development programs. Members of the Talent Development Council (TDC), along with learning leaders across VA, inspired by OPM Leadership Competencies, ICARE Values and Servant Leadership Principles, created the Leadership Development Framework (LDF) with the goal of fostering a continuous learning culture.

The LDF identifies five key leadership levels: Emerging Leader (leading self), Team Leader (leading projects), First Line Supervisors (leading teams), Manager (leading programs) and Senior Leader (leading organizations).

VAAA already offers leadership training via the SALT program at the First Line Supervisor and Manager levels of the LDF. Senior leaders and the career field have been requesting an introductory leadership training for years in order to foster a culture of accountability and continual learning. The CLIMB program seeks to define and grow the OPM Leadership competencies identified at the LDF’s Emerging Leader and Team Leader level:

  • Accountability
  • Continual Learning
  • Decisiveness
  • Influencing/Negotiating
  • Integrity/Honesty
  • Interpersonal Skills
  • Problem Solving
  • Team Building
How is CLIMB structured?

David Ely leading a virtual session - Virtual sessions are presented in an engaging format with videos, music, lively discussions, polling, and several opportunities for group collaborationThe program combines 10 days of instructor-led virtual sessions emphasizing class discussion and collaboration with independent assignments using Blackboard Learn and an online textbook.

Participants take quizzes every day and submit assignments for credit. The program culminates in brief individual presentations centered on how the foundational leadership competencies can be applied for each individual to lead from where they are.

Example of daily schedule:

  • Hour 1: Live classroom session
  • Hour 2: 10-minute break and live classroom session
  • Hour 3: Independent assignment (quiz, reading, questionnaire, etc.)
  • Hour 4: Lunch
  • Hour 5: Live classroom session
  • Hour 6: 10-minute break followed by live classroom session
  • Hours 7 and 8: Independent assignments (quiz, reading, questionnaire, etc.)
Have a question about CLIMB that we haven’t answered?

Contact Houston Keil for more information.