By Will KingJanuary 30, 2009
FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan., Jan. 29, 2009 - Beginning Feb. 1 active-duty Soldiers can receive specialized job training at participating community colleges and technical schools through the Army Vocational/Technical Soldier Program.
AVOTEC is a short-term pilot program intended to provide training in high-demand career fields to help Soldiers find employment after they transition out of the Army. According to the AVOTEC Web site, the program is open to Soldiers, officers and wounded warriors serving on active duty, including National Guard and Reserve Soldiers on extended active duty.
AVOTEC is not a veterans program.
The program was established by Congress in the Consolidated Security, Disaster Assistance, and Continuing Appropriations Act of 2009, and signed into law Sept. 30, 2008, by former President George W. Bush.
AVOTEC differs from other education opportunities currently available to Soldiers by offering occupational training, not college degrees.
"We want the program to lead toward a certification or license that Soldiers can use in civilian life," said Thomas Slaughter, post-secondary program manager at U.S. Army Human Resources Command.
Active-duty Soldiers interested in taking advantage of these benefits must meet certain criteria: Classes must be non-degree based, non-credit hour based and no longer than 18 months in duration. All costs for instruction, certification, or license must be paid by Sept. 30, 2009.
Funding comes from AVOTEC's $19 million budget and is paid directly to each school by the Army. GI Bill or other existing education benefits cannot be used for AVOTEC programs; however ,Soldiers are still restricted to the maximum cost limit of $4,500 per year in tuition assistance.
For example, a Soldier already receiving $2,000 in tuition assistance for a degree program would only be eligible for $2,500 in funds for AVOTEC training in the same year. The money comes from different sources for different programs, but each Soldier is capped at $4,500 in tuition assistance per year.
Thirty colleges and technical schools nationwide have partnered with the Army, and Slaughter said he expects more schools to be added to the program soon.
Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kan., is currently the only school in Kansas or Missouri to apply and be accepted to the AVOTEC program. The JCCC Center for Business and Technology offers training and certification in fields such as computer systems and networking, healthcare, construction and real estate.
Darcy McGrath is the dean of Workforce Development and Operations at JCCC and worked with the Army to include the school in the AVOTEC program.
"We're here to serve the community, and this would be another audience," she said.
JCCC already enrolls around 300 veterans each semester, according to Veteran ServicesA,A Coordinator Kena Zumalt. She said JCCC has a scholarship for veterans who attend within six months of an honorable discharge, and a newly established committee is researching additional benefits for veterans.
"There's a certain amount of respect and admiration (among the JCCC faculty and staff) for our veteran students," Zumalt said. "They're more mature, more willing to do what needs to be done to get their education."
Slaughter said every active-duty Soldier could potentially benefit from AVOTEC, however the program ends Sept. 30, or when the $19 million runs out. He said no review authority has yet been established to evaluate the success of the AVOTEC pilot program, meaning it might not be around next year.
Soldiers who are interested in receiving training or certifications through AVOTEC are encouraged to consult an education counselor as soon as possible.
For more information visit the AVOTEC Web site at https://www.hrc.army.mil/site/education/VOTEC_Program.html or call the Fort Leavenworth Army Education Center at 684-2496 to schedule an appointment with a counselor.
For more information on technical, vocational and continuing education courses at the JCCC Center for Business and Technology visit the Web site at www.centerforbusiness.org or call (913) 469-3845.