Civilian training alive and well in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Published Jan. 30, 2018
CW3 Michael Osborne teaches in the CES Intermediate Course on Jan. 22, 2017 at the Army Management Staff College in Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas.

CW3 Michael Osborne teaches in the CES Intermediate Course on Jan. 22, 2017 at the Army Management Staff College in Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas.

While the general public may be able to name a few military installations where military training is held for any or all of the five branches, fewer individuals could probably name a base or post that hosts a civilian training center. The Army Management Staff College in Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, for example, has been a permanent civilian education establishment since 1985. The Army founded the college because it recognized a need for civilian leaders to receive comprehensive training to assist them in working through the specific types of challenges they faced in their high-ranking positions.

Over the course of 30 years, the original training tracks once referred to as the “Civilian Leader Development Division” and the “Center for Army Leadership”, eventually morphed into what is now known as the Civilian Education System (CES), the name given to the integrated program in 2007. Though CES has undergone a number of name changes, program changes, and even location changes, the robust program endures at the AMSC.

Taking a CES leader development course is a requirement for all Army Civilians.

The Foundation Course is required for all interns and Army Civilians (GS-01 – GS-12) hired after Sept. 30, 2006, and it is a prerequisite to taking any resident phase CES courses. After completing the Foundation Course, a civilian may take the Basic Course, which is offered for GS-01 through GS-09 employees. The Intermediate Course is for GS-10 through GS-12 employees, and the Advanced Course is set aside for GS-13 through GS-15 employees. A Continuing Education for Senior Leaders Course is available to GS-14 through GS-15 employees.

Some CES course offerings are not grade specific; the Action Officer Development Course and the Manager Development Course are open to all Army employees as a self-development tool, and they are not restricted to grade level. There are some circumstances under which employees may request a waiver from a prerequisite course. They must have taken a comparable course in which the bulk of material is the same. A list of pre-approved equivalent courses is available on the Army civilian training website.

How does CES training set you apart? 

When a hiring official is comparing two potential candidates with comparable education and experience, the official must look further for something that distinguishes one candidate over the other. Sometimes that distinction is that one of the candidates took a CES course. Just like any other credential, having it is usually better than not having it. But that is an oversimplification of the impact of taking a CES course. For example, the CES Intermediate Course is a three-week long course designed to help current or aspiring leaders learn about their leadership style, learn how to work and negotiate effectively with individuals with contrasting personality types, and how to mitigate and manage conflict in a workplace environment. The hiring official considering you for a team leader or first-line chief position would likely look favorably on the fact that you have specific army-based training that relates directly to the position for which you are applying. After all, the completed course is equivalent to a “Continuing Education Unit”, or CEU credit.

Class sizes are usually no more than about 15 people per seminar, and there are multiple seminars taught simultaneously; the last Intermediate Course graduated 12 seminars. There are a minimum of two instructors per seminar, which allows for contrasting teaching styles and encourages diversity of thought and experience.

“I found the course to be both enlightening and inspiring,” said Jenifer Williams, an IT Specialist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Sacramento District. “Learning more about how people’s personalities influence their leadership styles was quite fascinating. I believe my organization will benefit from the knowledge I have gained during the course.”

"This course is a must for all civilian employees who want to be or already are in a leadership position,” said Joe Tribbey, an engineer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Honolulu District. "It shows you what type of leader you are now at this moment and will help you become a better leader in the future. By taking this course you will also learn how you perceive people and what you value by taking the "Myers Briggs Type Indicator" and "Strength Deployment Inventory", which helps you better understand the what and the why when dealing with people."

Both Williams and Tribbey graduated from the Intermediate Course on Jan. 26, 2017.

Those interested in CES courses should sign up as soon as possible because classes typically have a waitlist. A benefit to local commands is that the travel expenses and tuition are covered by the Army, which makes the training experience attractive for commands with smaller budgets.

For more information about CES, visit the AMSC site and review the frequently asked questions, which provide a more in-depth description of how to sign up for courses, how to obtain course waivers, and what to expect in your course.