By Claudette Roulo
WASHINGTON, Nov. 20, 2012 - After completing an analysis of industry and employment trends, the Defense Department has embarked on a pilot program to help service members obtain civilian professional credentials, the department's director of training readiness and strategy told reporters today.
Frank C. DiGiovanni said five occupational areas were selected for the pilot program -- aircraft mechanic, automotive mechanic, health care, supply and logistics, and truck driver. A total of 17 military specialties are covered under these five areas, which align with Department of Labor's standard occupational classifications, he noted.
To select the occupations, he said, the department looked at the private sector for areas where there would be average or better growth coinciding with high numbers of projected job openings.
"What we've asked the services to do ... is to look at those five areas, look at their specific military occupational codes, marry them up and get some people into the pilot program," DiGiovanni said.
The program began in October, he said, and as it progresses, officials will examine whether existing military training is sufficient to qualify service members for civilian credentials. Where the current training is found to be insufficient, DiGiovanni added, the department will determine if the program can be adjusted or if training from external sources is necessary.
Training is just part of career development, however. "Some of these licenses and credentials require a certain level of experience to qualify," he said. So, the program will eventually assess service members at various stages in their military careers, he said.
Military officials will also assess the program's success from the perspective of the three key participant groups, DiGiovanni said. "The first is the individual," he said. "Did they feel they got what they needed to go out and compete?"
The second group, technical schools and supervisors, will be surveyed to determine whether meeting the requirements of a civilian certification program helped them or if it created additional challenges, DiGiovanni said.
As the service members involved in the pilot program transition from military service, a third group, employers, will be surveyed, he said.
"We'd have to go to some of the industry folks and say, 'The fact that [service members] were able to get some of these licenses or credentials while on military service, did that help in your decision to hire an individual? What kind of employee are they?'" he said.
"For us, the objective really is honoring the service of our service members and helping them ... while they're in the service to professionalize and expand their knowledge in these occupational areas," DiGiovanni said.
The program's second aim is to determine whether conducting this type of training through the services is cost-effective, he said. Other options could include vocational training through the Department of Labor or Veterans Affairs, he added.
The pilot is one of several DOD Credentialing and Licensing Task Force initiatives, said Eileen Lainez, a spokesperson for the Defense Department.
"We're looking at how we can better document and translate military training and experience so that civilian credentialing agencies and states can better understand the nature of military training and award appropriate credit," she said.
"Industry has told us ... that military members bring several advantages to the table," DiGiovanni said. Employers consider service members and veterans to be diligent, efficient and reliable, he said.
Service members and veterans report that their military experience provided them with leadership and problem-solving skills, adaptability and the ability to work in teams, he added. "In many industries ... the training and experience they have in the military gives them a jump start," he said.
"However, civilian employers also report that translating military skills to civilian job experience is one of the biggest challenges of hiring employees with military experience," Lainez said. "Civilian credentials provide a means of doing this translation."
Frank C. DiGiovanni
American Cold War Veterans, Inc.
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