Army skills translate into civilian credentials

Metalworking program earns accreditation from national institute

March 09, 2003|By Jennifer Blenner | Jennifer Blenner,SUN STAFF

For the first time, the National Institute for Metalworking Skills has accredited an Army program, allowing the development of civilian employment credentials for soldiers.

At a ceremony last week at Aberdeen Proving Ground, the institute gave the Army Ordnance Mechanical Maintenance School its stamp of approval for the metalworking skills training program.

"I think this is [the] crossing of a threshold and represents stepping into a new era in the military," said Sgt. Maj. James Herrell, the Army Ordnance Corps' chief of enlisted career management. The military is reaching out to the civilian industry to obtain the latest advances in technology and up- to-date training, he said.

Herrell said the civilian program is good for the Army because it produces more-capable soldiers whose military career skills can mirror those of their counterparts in civilian industry.

One of the benefits of the institute's certification for soldiers is that the credentials are portable: Soldiers leaving the service gain the opportunity to work in civilian metalworking occupations anywhere in the country, and there is a demand for skilled civilian technicians, Herrell said.

"There will be a shortage of 250,000 automotive technicians by 2010," he said, adding that soldiers with certification will become highly sought.

"This is the nation's highest possible achievement [in metalworking]," said Stephen Mandes, executive director of the National Institute for Metalworking Skills. "It hasn't been an easy path, but it has been a work in progress."

NIMS accreditation involves written and performance examinations. Each facility seeking accreditation undergoes a self-analysis, looking at everything from command support to curriculum, then the institute makes a two-day on-site audit to verify the self-analysis. "We expect 100 percent from all our parts," Mandes said.

Herrell pointed out the difference between accreditation and certification. Accreditation is a seal of approval that is accepted as a national standard for metalwork training; certification means that individuals have met those standards.

In essence, the training and courses are accredited, and the people can become certified by taking the institute's exams, Herrell said.

"The level of quality expected is no grade below 100 percent," said Matthew Coffey, president of the National Tooling and Machining Association, who was present for the Aberdeen ceremony.

"This is about an opportunity for warriors to have a skill, an Army to have a system and an industry getting a ready pool of people," Coffey said.

Herrell said the military is being transformed by technology, noting areas such as composite materials and fuel cells.

"We have to evolve with technology, and one small piece to help us along in that evolution is the accreditation," he said.

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