ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. -- The U.S. Army is encouraging its civilian non-construction scientists and engineers to take advantage of a new funding source for career development.

The Career Program 16 initiative includes academic degrees, developmental assignments, internships and short- and long- term training opportunities.

A large percentage of Army employees are now eligible for retirement. In response, the Army established the CP-16 Proponency Office in 2014 to address the potential of losing critical scientific and engineering knowledge.

"The Army wants to invest in the workforce as part of the workforce transformation to make sure we don't end up with huge gaps in our competencies," said Dawn Folck, deputy activity career program manager for CP-16 with the Army Research, Development and Engineering Command.

The Army aligned all civilian employees with one of the 31 career programs in 2011. There about 18,500 employees across the Army designated in CP-16's 60 job series, which apply to non-construction scientists and engineers.

"It's so new that many scientists and engineers are not aware of it," Folck said. "There's funding for degrees, developmental opportunities and training with industry. There are so many employees who are retiring and eligible to retire. We need to train the workforce to fill these competencies."

Funding is available for master's and doctorate degrees, and CP-16 funds may be able to fund the full cost of a degree.

"This is a funding source that is not being used to its fullest to pursue academic degrees," Folck said.