First Lady Michelle Obama held a conference at the White House April 29 to announce an information technology pilot that will expand opportunities for service members seeking to earn IT certifications before they transition from active duty.
This is the second major public-private partnership developed through the Military Credentialing and Licensing Task Force, which was established last June by the Department of Defense (DoD) at President Barack Obama’s direction.
The vision of the pilot is to provide opportunities for enlisted IT service members to gain industry-recognized, nationally portable certifications necessary for high-demand IT professions such as network and computer systems administrators, computer user support specialists and IT security analysts.
With the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan winding down, it is estimated that more than a million veterans will be returning to the United States over the next five years, according to a news article released by the Department of Defense. In addressing the White House Forum on Military Credentialing and Licensing, in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building South Court Auditorium in April, Mrs. Obama said the targeted professions are expected to generate more than 1 million job opportunities by 2020 and that these jobs can bring an average annual salary of more than $81,000.
Anticipating the unique challenges these returning veterans will face when returning to the civilian sector, Mrs. Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, launched Joining Forces two years ago. This nationwide campaign is intended to rally all Americans to support veterans and military families.
The first lady said what prompted her to take on the cause of unemployed veterans is the disturbing lack of job opportunities for veterans and their families.
“More than one million service members will be hanging up their uniforms and transitioning to civilian life,” she said. “And that’s on top of the hundreds of thousands of veterans and military spouses already out there looking for work. But too often, because of red tape, or outdated rules, or simple lack of coordination, our men and women in uniform come home only to find that the training and experience they’ve gotten during their time in uniform simply doesn’t count.”
The president took that concept one step further when he held a press conference in August 2011 at the Washington Navy Yard to announce his efforts to bridge the employment gap between returning veterans who are desperately seeking work and employers who are desperately searching for skilled, reliable and trainable employees.
“Our companies need skilled workers like our veterans to grow, and there’s no reason why we can’t connect the two,” he said.
The president then issued a challenge to employers in the private sector.
“We’re challenging the private sector to hire or train 100,000 unemployed post-9/11 veterans or their spouses by the end of 2013,” he said. “Today, we’re saying to our veterans, you fought for us, and now we’re fighting for you – for the jobs and opportunities that you need to keep your families strong and to keep America competitive in the 21st century. And at a time when there is so much work to be done in this country, we need everyone’s help to do it.”
A year-and-a-half later, and eight months ahead of schedule, on April 30, the president announced private businesses had stepped up and answered his call to action.
“I am proud to say that these companies stepped up,” he said. “In just a year, businesses had already hired 125,000 veterans or military spouses.”
The president’s vision is to provide credentialing opportunities to enlisted service members as a workforce professionalization and career development tool. His vision is echoed in the Navy’s Credentialing Opportunities On-Line (COOL) program, which has operated since June 2006. Navy COOL is a continuously developing product for both active duty and Reserve (less individual Ready Reserve) Navy service members that defines civilian credentials which best map to Navy ratings, jobs, designators, and collateral duties/assignments.
Keith Boring, Navy COOL program manager, said the program has proven to be of great value to many Sailors, and that he welcomes the opportunity to share lessons learned from the past six years with the other U.S. Armed Services and the White House.
Supporting Boring’s claim are awards either won by Navy COOL or with Navy COOL as a major contributing player. These awards include selection as an American Society for Training and Development (ASTD), OPTIMUS, Workforce Management, Training Top 125 (twice) recipient, and Human Capital Management for Defense (HCMD) award recipient. Navy COOL also contributed to the Navy being recognized by ASTD in 2011 as the number three training organization in the nation.
“I believe this is an excellent opportunity for the Navy and the Navy’s Credentialing Program to be in the spotlight, to showcase our accomplishments,” Boring said. “Also, it is a great opportunity for us to learn new ideas, strategies and best practices from the other services. It’s a win-win for all the services, but most importantly for our veterans.”
The heart of the Navy COOL program is its website: https://www.cool.navy.mil/.
This web-based hub provides comprehensive information on occupational credentials correlating with every Navy rating, job, designator and collateral duty/out-of-rate assignment. It provides “how to” instructions for pursuing credentials, links to credentialing organizations, and cross-references to programs that may help service members pay for credentialing fees, such as the Navy’s Credentialing Program and Montgomery GI Bill.
The Navy COOL website has received more than 140 million hits from service members, credentialing agencies, employers and academia, with an average on-site dwell time of 22 minutes per user. Since going live in June 2006, more than 5,000 military and civilian Web pages have linked to the Navy COOL website.
As a result, Navy COOL has been recognized by the DoD as the gold standard for the other services to reference in establishing their own credentialing portals/websites.
“The Navy has not only met the vision and goals of the IT Pilot, but has well exceeded it,” Boring said. “We have achieved success on many levels.”
Goals of the Credentialing Program
The president’s program began as an effort to promote the employment of service members who were preparing to transition out of the service. The pilot has been expanded to include another component – entry and mid-level military career development.
The services have attended White House, DoD, and industry IT credentialing meetings and are well underway with their plans to meet the White House’s vision, and the DoD’s goals.
Recognizing the increasing demands on securing the DoD’s IT infrastructure, and professionalization of the cybersecurity/IT workforce (CSWF), the goals of the president’s IT pilot complement IT credentialing goals already established within the DoD, which includes the guiding principle of “workforce skill consistency.”
Training and certification will be standardized across the DoD to provide the necessary consistency among military, civilian and contractor job roles, and responsibilities to ensure interoperability of all segments of the CSWF.
One of the Department of the Navy Chief Information Officer’s (DON CIO) four information management (IM)/IT/cyberspace goals states: Attract, develop and retain a highly competent IM/IT/cyberspace and information resource management IRM total force. A key means to attract, develop, and retain a competent IT workforce is by providing professional certification opportunities, as well as growth opportunities, through continuing education and maintenance of certifications.
Navy’s Role in the White House IT Pilot
The DoD agreed in a White House meeting in February to conduct a pilot program to identify up to three IT certifications to be offered to a minimum of 90 qualified service personnel in IT military occupation codes.
The purpose of this portion of the IT pilot program is to enhance the skills and abilities of IT specialists in their early and mid-careers and to further the occupational professionalization of the force.
The services have also been asked to identify a maximum of three IT certifications that will be offered to a minimum of 200 qualified transitioning service personnel in military IT occupation codes. The goal is to increase employability of IT personnel within 180 days of transitioning to the civilian workforce. Both portions of the IT pilot will be conducted over a one-year period with quarterly reporting on progress.
However, providing certification opportunities to a minimum of 90 military IT personnel as part of a pilot program would be redundant, since the Navy, through normal schoolhouse training for those in IT fields and the Navy credentialing program processes, funds an average of 600 certification exam fees and maintenance fees to qualified ITs per month.
The Navy has requested, and has been approved, to provide five years of IT credentialing data as a baseline. The Navy will provide its historical data as a control group.
DON CIO and the Navy’s Credentials Program Office have worked together to enhance the collaboration with associated IT certification agencies – to the advantage of the Navy’s IT personnel, while providing credentialing opportunities at the best cost and best value to the government.
DON CIO and the Navy’s Credentials Program have also jointly drafted the Navy’s formal submission for the White House IT Pilot, a 52-page document with a wealth of IT credentialing statistics covering fiscal years 2007 to 2012.
The Navy is currently determining if, and how, it will participate in the transition portion of the IT Pilot.
Former Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta, in a statement last June lent his support to the president for his efforts to provide credentialing and licensing for service members.
“I applaud President Obama’s initiative to help thousands of service members obtain industry-
recognized certifications for the trade skills they have learned and worked hard to master while in uniform,” Panetta said. “Supported by the efforts of the Defense Department’s Military Credentialing and Licensing Task Force, these certifications will give our returning troops a leg up in a competitive job market, and they will make it easier for veterans to transition to civilian life.”
The enlisted IT workforce continues to see the value of credentialing, as a voluntary professionalization opportunity, as a CSWF requirement, and as a ticket to future employment opportunities. As a matter of fiscal and legislative necessity, and with five years of implementation lessons learned, the Navy continues to develop and refine its credentialing program to meet the needs of the Sailors, the vision of the White House, and the goals of the DoD.
“We’re not going to stop (in our efforts to help veterans),” the first lady said. “Because in the end, that’s really what this is all about. In the end, if we keep on working together and building these public-private partnerships, then I know that we’ll be able to serve our veterans and military families as well as they have served this country. And that’s what it’s all about.”
For more information
White House Credentialing Fact Sheet.
DON IM/IT/Cyberspace Vision, Mission and Goals.
Navy Credentialing Opportunities On-Line (COOL).
Navy Center for Information Dominance.