Credentialing program helps service members excel

By Keith Desbois, Combined Arms Support Command Public AffairsDecember 4, 2012

Credentialing program helps service members excel
Students attending the Allied Trades Specialist (91E) course at the U.S. Army Ordnance School learn to machine parts on manual lathes as part of their training. The course work they complete can be used towards obtaining National Institute of Metal-w... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT LEE, Va. (Dec. 5, 2012) -- The Combined Arms Support Command is responsible for training over 180,000 students annually through 541 courses taught by the Ordnance, Quartermaster and Transportation schools, Soldier Support Institute and Army Logistics University.

The command is helping to increase opportunities for sustainment Soldiers by developing credentialing programs for 27 of its 57 military occupational specialties. One of the ways Combined Arms Support Command, or CASCOM, is supporting professional credentialing of its service members is through the U.S. Army Ordnance School's Allied Trade Specialist (91E) course.

The 19-week 91E course provides training in machining and welding, two highly sought after trades in the civilian manufacturing industry, according to Master Sgt. Alvin V. Beehler, Allied Trades chief instructor.

While learning the skills required for performing their military jobs, students can also advance their professional trade credentials.

The training received during the course is equal to a two-year technical school degree, Beehler said.

The machining portion of the course is based on the National Institute of Metal-working Skills, also known as NIMS, curriculum, which is recognized nationwide as the standard used in the manufacturing industry.

At the start of the course, students are enrolled in the NIMS database. By entering into the database, they begin the credentialing program and by the end of the first week are eligible to receive a national certification in safety. There are a total of five credentials service members can earn by the end of the course.

After passing each section of the course, students have the opportunity to take the NIMS written test online. The 1 ½ hour test is provided before the start of the duty day so as not to interfere with the 91E course schedule.

"Everything we teach is applied towards credentialing, but in the end it all depends on how the student performs as to whether or not they receive the NIMS credit," Beehler said.

Benefits of the credentialing program include increasing the level of professionalism in the force, promotion points and that it could one day help secure a civilian career. The more credentials a service member achieves, the better their chances of advancing in their military career, Beehler added. But whether they remain in service or not, credentialing and technical certifications are important to have.

"I enjoy what I do and I plan to make the Army a career," said Pfc. Jeremiah Johnson, 91E Advanced Individual Training student. "This program will help me to advance through the ranks faster."

Johnson has already achieved two certifications and is waiting to test for two more.

Students are not the only ones to benefit from the program, as the instructors are also encouraged to earn credentials. To date, 95 percent of the instructors are enrolled, with 70 percent having received multiple certifications.

The 91E course trains 500 students annually from the Army, Army National Guard, Army Reserve and U.S. Marine Corps. Since the credentialing program began in July, 156 have registered, 106 have passed at least one certification and 25 achieved multiple certifications. Thirty-five more students are getting ready to take the test for additional certificates.

The credentialing initiative is part of a life-long learning program.

"Once the service members arrive at their duty stations, they can continue the credentialing process," said Jack Peters, Metal Working and Services Division chief. "There are a total of 12 credentials to be earned, which would provide the service member with a NIMS Certified Machinist certificate."

A future initiative is to certify the welding portion of the training. Due to the many materials, techniques and types of welding, it is a more complicated process.

"We are working to offer service members in all levels of training, opportunities to earn American Welding Society, or AWS, Level 1 Welder qualifications," Peters said. "Additionally, the Ordnance School is seeking to become an AWS Accredited Test Facility to help them earn welder certification."

The credentialing initiative is in support of a Presidential Task Force on veteran employment opportunities. The task force's focus is on promoting civilian credentialing for service members to enhance their employment possibilities when they leave the military.

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