Soldiers and their spouses now have two big ways to advance their professional goals, thanks to two new Army initiatives. Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston recently spoke with We Are the Mighty to explain the Army's new Credentialing Assistance Program and the changes to the Army's Spouse Licensure Reimbursement Program, both designed to give soldiers and their spouses better career options.
Grinston said that under the Army Credentialing Assistance Program, active, Guard and Reserve soldiers would be able to receive up to $4,000 annually to use toward obtaining professional credentials, in much the same way that tuition assistance is currently available. In fact, a soldier can use both tuition assistance and credentialing assistance, but the combined total cannot exceed $4,000.
"The world has evolved and some of these credentials are equally important to a college degree," Grinston said. "We want to give all opportunities to our soldiers, and not just limit them to a 4-year degree. We have the best soldiers in the world and they do incredible things in the Army, and they should be able to keep doing those things when they get out. It's good for them and it's good for the military – we're making better soldiers, as well as better welders and better medics."
Soldiers are now able to use credentialing assistance for any of the 1,600 professional credentials currently available in the Army Credentialing Opportunities Online (COOL) portal, and the credentials they pursue do not have to align with the soldier's military occupational specialty (MOS). Right now, the most popular credential soldiers choose to pursue is private airplane pilot, he said.
"We allow you to get a credential in your interest because your interests may change over time. I don't think we should limit our soldiers to their MOS. It's all about making a better soldier, and at some point, everyone leaves the military, so I don't think we should limit them to their MOS."
Grinston said the Credentialing Assistance Program reflects the priority Chief of Staff of the Army James McConville set to put people first, and he said that commitment extends beyond the soldier to the soldier's spouse and family, too. That's why the Army is doubling the maximum amount available under the Spouse Licensure Reimbursement Program from $500 to $1,000 and expanding the program so that spouses who move overseas will also be eligible to be reimbursed for licensing fees.
"We ask a lot of our spouses, we ask them to do a lot of things. We want them to be able to get relicensed, but we've been making them pay for that out of pocket," Grinston said. "If we're going to put people first, we need to put resources behind that."
The motivation for changing the spouse licensing reimbursement program came from experiences Grinston has seen with his wife, a teacher, as she tries to re-enter the workforce.
He also said it arose out of the small group meetings he regularly holds with Army spouses around the country. During a session at Ft. Knox, a military spouse told him that she was a behavioral health specialist and that when they moved, the state of Kentucky required her to take more credits in order to be licensed.
"We still have a long way to go, but I'm working with state reciprocity so we can do more for spouses as we move them from one location to the next," Grinston said, noting that that particular spouse's story really struck him. "We need behavioral health specialists to work. We need them right now."
He said that the Army is working with every state to align licensure requirements so that a spouse who is licensed and working in one state will be able to continue working when their family moves with the Army. Internally, the Army is also looking at ways to streamline the screening process for jobs at Army Child Development Centers (CDCs) so that a spouse who has already passed the background screening and is working at one CDC will not have to resubmit to the screening process when the family moves.
"If you've already gone through the background screening for, say, the CDC at Bragg and now you're moving to Hood, you shouldn't have to go through the screening again," Grinston said. "We need CDC caregivers, now. If we hire more, we can add a classroom, and that's 10 more kids off the waitlist. Less of our kids on the waitlist, that's another way we can put people first. People first is something we've always tried to do, and now we're trying to do it even better."
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