By William B. King, AMCAugust 20, 2019
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- Career Programs provide the formal structure necessary to oversee the individual and collective training and development needs of a diverse, global workforce of nearly 330,000 Army Civilians serving in more than 540 career fields.
Army Civilians serve next to uniformed service members providing essential operational, logistical and administrative support to the Army's mission worldwide. Civilians provide the Army with critical technical skills, management and leadership in a variety of career fields, including in engineering, finance, medicine, law, contracting, human resources, communications and much more.
Every Army civilian is aligned with one of 32 career programs that provides structured plans, processes and activities for the training, development and mentorship over the life cycle of their career. Each career program has a career program manager that oversees the proponency for that career field, and each command has a command career program manager to provide career guidance and mentorship to civilians within their CP locally. Ultimately, the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs is the lead proponent for Army Civilian career program management and assigns staff proponency to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civilian Personnel.
Max Wyche, Army Materiel Command's deputy chief of staff for personnel, manages civilian and military personnel for the total AMC workforce of around 190,000, including about 92,000 Army Civilians in nearly all of the career programs. He said effective and proactive career program management results in a trained and proficient workforce that enhances readiness.
"It's about making sure we have the systems and mechanisms we need to maximize the capabilities of our workforce and make sure that everybody has everything they need to get their job done from a personnel and from a training perspective," Wyche said.
According to July 2019 data from the Civilian Human Resources Agency, the largest career program is CP-53 Medical with just over 33,000 civilians, representing 12% of the total Army Civilian workforce. With less than 400 civilians, CP-20 Quality Assurance Specialist (Ammunition Surveillance), or QASAS, is one of the smallest. Civilians in CP-20 can be found in many of the 26 arsenals, depots and ammunition plants that comprise the Army's Organic Industrial Base, and in Army units and commands in the U.S and overseas.
Ron Mathewson, CP-20 career program manager, said QASAS civilians perform safety inspections, testing and monitoring of ammunition throughout the life cycle from production to disposal. "Wherever there are Soldiers with ammunition, there's a CP-20 member within reach to assist them to determine if it's safe to use and serviceable," he said.
The QASAS career field is unique in that new civilians can only enter through a formal two-year apprenticeship program, and each QASAS must sign a mobility agreement to move between jobs and locations to fill the needs of the Army. To ensure a ready force, the CP-20 program ensures civilians receive ongoing ammunition surveillance training, leadership and supervisory training, and resiliency training to improve coping skills following deployments.
Mathewson said he enjoys his job as the CP-20 manager because he gets to communicate and build professional and personal relationships with the QASAS community. "I get to see them grow and develop into leaders and progress in their careers," he said. "I love being a QASAS because of the support we provide to Soldiers."
Another small career program with a big role in Soldier and family readiness is CP-27 Housing Management. Army Civilians in CP-27 serve as advocates for Soldiers and families and support readiness by ensuring housing, both on and off installations, meets health and safety standards.
Ray Zapata, the Army Housing chief at Redstone Arsenal, supervises four CP-27 employees providing housing services for the community, including oversight for 354 homes on the garrison. He has been working in housing for 15 years and has been in CP-27 since 2008 when he transitioned to Army housing from working in Marine housing. "Hands down, the Army has got the training aspect and created a camaraderie between the housing peers," said Zapata.
Zapata said an advantage to serving in one of the smaller CPs is that he knows many of the Army housing managers at other garrisons and can contact them for information, advice and sharing of best practices. "I like the fact that we're a smaller group; I've got the ability to reach out and touch other housing chiefs around the Army rather rapidly," he said.
As the local CP-27 manager at Redstone Arsenal, Zapata said he works hard to get his people the training they need for job proficiency and career progression, including quality assurance classes, attending the annual Senior Housing Executive Course, and local training focused on current issues.
While career program managers are largely seen as experts in their fields, they also need continuing education to stay current with professional trends and issues within their CP, civilian human resources policies, and new training opportunities available to employees. Each year, AMC hosts a Career Program Management Training Summit for its command program managers to share best practices, learn more about the command's priorities and focus areas, and discuss civilian personnel initiatives that affect their CP and the AMC enterprise as a whole. The next AMC Career Program Management Training Summit will be Sept. 10-12 at Redstone Arsenal.
Wyche said the number of Army Civilians and the diversity of skills within AMC makes the command unique in the Army. There is an ongoing effort within AMC to migrate most of the command's approximately 1,700 employees in a 0301 General Administration series position description into a more standard, classifiable PD that aligns with the appropriate career program. This will ensure those employees have access to training opportunities, professional development, oversight and mentorship they deserve to further their careers.
Wyche said no matter what level in the organization an employee is at, there should be training and development opportunities available to them. "It's really about employees having access to the training, but also having access to the information so they know how to plan their careers and they know the questions to ask when they're talking with their mentors and mapping out what their next steps are," he said.