The second phase of the Coast Guard’s Credentialing Assistance Pilot Program began in September, taking a major step by funding training courses that lead to a credential. This expansion provides the support needed for members to earn professional certifications, credentials, and licenses that help them attain their short and long-term career goals.
“You asked. We listened,” said Michael Reynolds, the Voluntary Credentialing program manager in Force Readiness Command’s (FORCECOM) Career Investment Division.
Members can select from over 2,000 credential programs on the Coast Guard Credentialing Opportunities Online (CG COOL) website. Prior to Phase II coming online, participants were required to take courses that were rating-related, out of rating assignment, collateral duty or academically related, or part of the Military to Mariner (M2M) program. However, now they can choose their CG COOL courses freely as they broaden their professional horizons.
“The Coast Guard’s Credentialing Assistance program has expanded exponentially this year,” Reynolds said. “In April of this year officers became eligible for CA. And with the recent Phase II launch that now funds approved training courses, the CA program increased a staggering 248% (based on CA funds authorized) in the last year.”
Coast Guard active duty and reserves now have $4,500 of credentialing assistance (CA) every fiscal year to use on training courses and test costs. This is in addition to $4,500 for tuition assistance (TA). That is a whopping $9,000 available to members, per fiscal year. These funds can significantly offset the burden of educational expenses and ultimately help folks land jobs.
As Reynolds explained, in 2009, Congress passed the National Defense Act, which mandated a credentialing program across military branches. Legislators and the president understood the importance of credentials as opposed, or in addition to, traditional degrees.
Reynolds knows first-hand how impactful credentials can be. He served in the Army and the Navy for many years. When he retired from the service, he had several governmental clearances — including a White House clearance — which Reynolds thought would open doors and make him an appealing candidate. Instead, he experienced unemployment as many agencies sought candidates with degrees and credentials.
That is why Reynolds is so passionate about the credentialing program. He knows just how impactful it can be on a person’s life. “This program helps with unemployment numbers. It helps with retention and recruiting because CA is part of a member’s benefits,” he stated. “CA also helps with readiness because it creates a more professionalized workforce.”
Members are required to use CA training providers that have been vetted and approved by Veteran Affairs (VA) or the Department of Labor (DOL). As Reynolds noted, FORCECOM reserves the right to implement additional vetting requirements in order to protect members from predatory or substandard providers.
Because obtaining a credential certification or license is voluntary, members must be off-duty while participating in the program. CA does not cover travel or lodging expenses. If you have questions or need additional information, email the CG COOL team.
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