Soldiers can soon use federal funding to earn credentials in skilled trades.
Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel Dailey said the program, which is testing at Fort Hood, Texas, is one of his top priorities and will soon be available at all major Army installations. The Army's top enlisted Soldier talked about noncommissioned officer education Nov. 30 during a visit to Fort Riley.
"You can pursue any trade or any license or any certificate for any state-recognized or industry-recognized credential in the U.S.," he said.
About 18 percent of Soldiers use Tuition Assistance, Dailey said, and it is limited to students on a degree plan. Funding from this year's National Defense Authorization Act "frees that up" for self-directed credential, Dailey said.
This initiative was created as a way to help credential Soldiers in their Military Occupational Specialties -- training men and women in uniform are receiving that is equivalent to the skills of their civilian counterparts.
Leaders examined labor force numbers in the United States to help develop the new initiative. Dailey said 20 percent of jobs in America require a degree and the remaining jobs are skilled and unskilled labor.
"You know what you are," Dailey asked a room full of noncommissioned officers at Barlow Theater. "Skilled labor. That's what you are. You're called skilled labor. And did you know skilled labor makes on average 30 percent more a year than an undergraduate from college?"
A worker with a credentialed skill has a 75 percent better chance of finding employment, Dailey went on to say. The country has an overabundance of educated people and a deficiency of skilled tradesmen -- a "dying breed in America."
The Army has offered civilian certification for truck drivers since 2015, and Dailey said Soldiers should get the opportunity to match what they came in the Army to do: work as skilled tradesman.
Officials unveiled the program at Fort Hood to work out the program's mechanics, and Dailey said he was moving as fast as he could, though he needed noncommissioned officers' help.
"I can only get the money for this if you use it," he said.
One hundred percent of Soldiers get out of the Army, Dailey joked, and they will have to do something in America.
"You gotta fall back on something," he said.
Command Sgt. Maj. Craig Bishop, the 1st Inf. Div. senior noncommissioned officer, said he hoped "Big Red One" Soldiers enjoyed their interaction with Dailey, "and got an opportunity to see him model positive leadership and show them that he's still a Soldier who cares."
Also during his visit, Dailey conducted physical training with his former unit, the 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Inf. Div.; visited Irwin Army Community Hospital; and watched 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team railhead operations.
Spc. Logan Toneys worked out with Dailey that morning and said his personality, the way he presented himself and his physical condition made the PT session a good experience.
"He's exactly what you think of when you think of the Sergeant Major of the Army," Toneys said.
It is important for high-ranking officials interact with Soldiers because it shows they "recognize the work we do and the time and effort we put into our job," Toney said.
Dailey's visit was a morale boost and Toney said he was "very cool" and humble.
"I think he is the type of leader every Soldier should want to be like," he added.