Pilot PWD credentialing program expands career chances for troops
August 29, 2013
FORT LEE, Va. (Aug. 29, 2013) -- A new career development program at the Quartermaster School's Petroleum and Water Department is giving its first participants -- a group of 20 noncommissioned officers -- a big advantage in the future job market.
The pilot effort began less than two months ago and offers certifications through the National Petroleum Management Association, which is recognized by more than 120 professional corporations who work specifically with petroleum, said Sgt. 1st Class Kevin Mason, a 92F (petroleum supply) instructor/writer.
"These certifications will open up a broad spectrum of opportunities for the service members in our career field who are transitioning (out of the military)," said Mason. "Aside from gaining a technical certification, the organization helps the service member write and post their resume, and they assist with job searches."
The program is a mark of success for the Army as well. Over the past couple of years, schools that teach highly technical military occupational specialties have been encouraged to search for credentialing projects. Nearly half of the 57 MOS-producing courses taught at Fort Lee now offer commercial certification opportunities. Some of the well-established examples include the Ordnance School's allied trades certification program, the Transportation School's motor transport operator program and the Quartermaster School's American Culinary Federation program.
While PWD was not part of the initial push for credentialing projects here, the school nonetheless decided to search for opportunities in its 92-Foxtrot (petroleum supply) and 92-Lima (petroleum laboratory specialist) career fields, explained Jose Hernandez, director of the facility.
"The promotion opportunities for liquid logistics are not as high as they should be," he said. "We are working on balancing our career progression and preparing our NCOs who aren't getting promoted to transition out of the military as a highly competitive asset in the civilian job market."
The NPMA partnership is a huge step forward for the department, Hernandez also noted. It's an organization that offers five levels of certification that are globally recognized and valued. The pilot program with PWD includes a review of military training records and experience, which results in continuing education credits for the participating service member. Those in the program also complete online training modules offered by NPMA to validate their records and experience. After the modules, there is a comprehensive test each of the NCOs take.
For a service member with more than 15 years of experience, about 65 percent of those qualifications can be transferred to the civilian sector, Hernandez said. The credentialing program offers additional computerized training to teach the latest concepts to those seeking commercial certifications.
One 92F instructor -- Sgt. 1st Class Terence Bright -- was among the first NCOs to complete the program and earn the top level of certification. He said he's sitting at 23 years of service with few chances for promotion and is seriously considering retirement. With that in mind, he decided to complete the course as quickly as possible in order to be prepared for the civilian job market.
"I think it will help me find a job quicker," he said. "When organizations that are hiring see a certified individual over one who is just knowledgeable in the field, I think it shows them I'm a better professional."
Bright said he also hopes his example of earning the top certification level will motivate others to complete the course, regardless of their rank or near-future career plans.
Hernandez shares the same vision. While the pilot program may have only included 20 instructors with more than 17 years of service apiece, he said he thinks this program would be beneficial for any petroleum service member, especially those with more than 10 years of experience.
"Right now, we're focused on PWD instructors, but we are interested in getting access to others out in the field," he said. "Funding is an issue at that point, but the association is working on getting approved for tuition assistance or G.I. Bill benefits. That looks like it's going to be a 9-12 month process, and they are about 6 months into it now, so stay tuned."
Mason, the NCO who is serving as the PWD point of contact for the program, said he's convinced that NPMA certification will result in better career opportunities for transitioning service members seeking employment.
"With any MOS in the military, there's a certain amount of training and experience that you can take into the private sector, but it's often surprising how much of it doesn't transfer," Mason said. "So, commercial certification is definitely a cross-level asset that's definitely good to have in place prior to retiring so you'll have an edge in the civilian sector without having to start over when you leave the military."