December 12, 2008The Army this week announced it was standing up a civilian university to better manage employee education and training. With plans for a staff of 15, however, the university is less a physical entity than a governing headquarters that aims to better coordinate education programs.
The move is part of a broader plan to centrally manage career development for the Army's 250,000 civilian employees, about 60 percent of whom do not have established career paths. By centralizing management the service plans to level the playing field for all civilians and gain a better understanding of the skills it must develop to meet long-term needs.
Eventually, the service expects to create eight broad career tracks that will provide employees with a clear path for promotion and give them more visibility into opportunities elsewhere in the Army.
"We have a variety of subgroups of civilians that are well-managed, that have career programs and functional programs that provide for the developmental needs of portions of the workforce," said Jim Warner, the retired brigadier general tapped to lead the Army Civilian University. "What we don't have is a departmental system that analyzes the entire workforce and provides a level of standards and oversight for all of that."
That will be the university's responsibility, Warner said. In January, the university will assume oversight of the Army Management Staff College at Fort Belvoir, Va., where Warner and his staff will be located. The college runs the Civilian Education System -- a leadership development program -- but the system isn't linked to other functional education programs in the Army or to departmentwide initiatives aimed at the entire civilian workforce, Warner said. Part of the university's role will be to integrate those things across the service.
Warner said he will serve as an advocate for civilian education and training, which will almost certainly require more funding. "The Army's senior leadership has determined that the civilian workforce has a large and growing role in leadership and management of various important functions within the Army as an institution," he said.
One of the university head's near-term goals is to improve distance-learning programs offered through the college. Classroom training at the college is very good, Warner said, but the distance-learning program needs to be enhanced.
Other top priorities will include documenting the education and training requirements for civilians throughout the Army's major commands and organizations. "Requirements are what get funded," Warner said.
December 12, 2008