CHIEVRES, Belgium -- The Army is helping civilian employees advance their careers through a range of workforce development programs.
"If you have time to research and you're really willing to move up the ladder and you're concentrated about your career and moving up, it's up to you," said Noreen Modesto-Towns, USAG Benelux workforce development manager.
"There are plenty of opportunities, not just for the higher ranking civilians, but for lower and mid-level, as well. There are programs for everybody to take advantage of," she said.
The list of programs can be overwhelming. They vary from intern programs to senior executive programs, but Modesto-Towns recommends each employee start with the Army Civilian Training Education and Development System Training Catalog.
"ACTEDS will actually tell you your career field. It will give you a path on what you're supposed to be taking throughout your career, if you want to reach the highest level," she said. "It will tell you your IDP - your Individual Development Program - what classes, what courses, what training you should be taking to reach to the next level."
Lt. Gen. Rick Lynch, commanding general, Installation Management Command, has repeatedly stressed the importance of workforce development for civilians and Soldiers.
"As the Army transforms, our workforce will increasingly need greater skills and higher education. We owe it to the Army to give future leaders the best educational opportunities today. Effective, continuous education and training is critical to our installation management mission and is one of the essential pillars of the IMCOM Campaign Plan," he said in a Feb. 22 policy memo on workforce development.
The policy goes on to state that every supervisor must prepare and maintain an IDP for their civilian employees; however Modesto-Towns encourages employees to take the first step in developing their own individual plans.
Employees can visit the IMCOM workforce development website to download full instructions and the IDP form. The form requests short-term and long-term goals. Then, employees should identify the training that will help them reach those goals. Finally, the IDP requires employees to state their five-year development plan, listing recommended training by fiscal year.
To move forward and implement the IDP, Modesto-Towns recommends civilians log onto the Civilian Human Resources Training Application System for CES Courses.
"That's where you fill out your profile," she said. "After you fill out your profile, they'll tell you which courses you're qualified for, and then you apply for training. They'll send out a notification to your supervisor. Your supervisor approves it, and then they'll give you a class date and the materials for the class."
The first class often recommended is the Civilian Education System Foundation Course. It's a Web-based class composed of eight modules on basics like Army structure, leadership styles, team building and more. The full course takes 57 hours to complete; however, employees can pre-test out of each module, reducing class time.
"Not a lot of people are taking advantage of the opportunity, and I don't know why because every Thursday from 3 to 5 p.m. we have civilian training. It's kind of like our sergeant's time. It's our opportunity to concentrate on any civilian development you want to take advantage of," said Modesto-Towns.
CES Foundation is required for all Army interns, team leaders, supervisors and managers hired after Sept. 30, 2006. It's also open to military supervisors of Army civilians and host nation employees.
"CES is the one way to go for career development because that's the first step in getting into the next program and the next," said Modesto-Towns.
After completing the foundation course, civilians may advance to the CES Basic Course, which is a combination of distance learning followed by a two-week resident course at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. Finally, employees can apply for the intermediate and advanced courses.
"I really recommend people take advantage of CES courses because they're centrally funded," said Modesto-Towns. "The garrison doesn't have to fork out anything. Especially with budget constraints nowadays, it's hard to go to training, but this one is centrally funded.
"Certain positions nowadays are requiring you to have certain courses - either basic, advanced or intermediate. It's a major plus to have that accomplished," she added.
The Army is full of development opportunities in addition to CES.
"Right after you finish your college degree, you can do the intern program and come out as a GS-11 at the end," said Modesto-Towns. "Or there's the fellow's program. You gain a master's degree after the four-year program, and you are slotted for a GS-13 position once you finish the program."
Another program is the Developmental Assignment Program. Modesto-Towns recently participated in the six-month training in Crystal City, Va., where she expanded her knowledge in the human resources career field. She said although some supervisors are hesitant about letting employees leave for six to nine months of training, it is an overall benefit for the garrison.
"Once that person comes back, he or she is multi-faceted. He or she can function in more than just one position. Now I have two fields that I can choose from: DPTMS and DHR," she said. "Once you know all this opportunity, you just want everybody to know."