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Online tool tracks career progress, aids transitions

Apr. 3, 2013 - 11:22AM   |  
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Soldiers can use the Army Career Tracker as a tool for planning their military careers and what comes after.
To map out a plan, soldiers and leaders can use it to look at:
• Military occupational specialty
• Assignment history
• Assignment preferences
• Military and civilian education goals
• Career milestones
• Preparing for transition to civilian employment or schooling

An innovative tool to provide soldiers and leaders with a single Internet portal to plan and manage careers is fully operational after several years of development.

Called Army Career Tracker, the online system is serving nearly 400,000 users and registering several thousands of additional soldiers every week, according to John Sparks, director of the NCO Institute of Professional Development at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va.

About 67 percent of Career Tracker's current users are active and reserve enlisted soldiers, 20 percent Army civilian employees and 13 percent officers.

When fielded with the entire force, Army Career Tracker will provide 1.3 million users with a tool to plan and monitor career development, search education and training resources, and receive personalized professional development and goal-setting advice from leaders and mentors.

ACT is not limited to Army career planning, and can be used for researching and managing transition and post-military activities, such as civilian education and employment preparations.

Career Tracker also is capable of providing valuable information and services to soldiers who may be affected by the coming drawdown.

For example, senior leaders have indicated that some soldiers may have to reclassify to another military occupational specialty to stay in the Army.

ACT can help them research the career fields and MOSs that may be good candidates for reclassification.

“Army Career Tracker allows soldiers to look at the professional modeling for the different MOSs,” said Sparks. “ACT will show what are the various assignments and schools for that MOS.

“Equally important, the leader can look at the professional development model (for a candidate reclassification MOS) and discuss the options with the soldier,” Sparks said.

The former command sergeant major of the Training and Doctrine Command said ACT can be used in the developmental counseling process but only as a tool to help the leader counsel subordinates.

(Page 2 of 3)

“We certainly don't want developmental counseling to be viewed as some kind of automated process,” Sparks said. “For example, if we were to put a counseling form on ACT, there might be a tendency for some leaders to think there is an automated counseling process.

“You really want the soldier and leader to get together and discuss performance and objectives using developmental counseling scenarios,” he said.

Sparks said the leader can use ACT to set objectives for a soldier, “but it should not be at the center of the counseling process.”

Getting started

Sergeant Major of the Army Raymond Chandler sees another role for Career Tracker as the Army gets smaller and withdraws large numbers of soldiers from the Middle East combat theater.

“After more than 11 years of persistent conflict, we must get back to the basics of leadership,” Chandler said in a recent message to enlisted leaders. “My expectation of you as a leader is three-fold:

• First, you must know what the Army Career Tracker is and what it can do.

• Next, you must use this tool and develop a plan for yourself.

• Last, I expect you to train your subordinates and ensure they are using it to become tomorrow's agile and adaptive leaders,” he said.

Under the Army's life-cycle approach to learning and professional development, soldiers should receive counseling from their first-line leader within 30 days of arrival at their first permanent duty station.

To register with ACT, soldiers must identify their leader, such as the squad leader, and that leader must verify the leader-to-lead association.

However, Sparks noted that many soldiers become familiar with ACT in advanced individual training and are prepared to enroll in the system when they arrive at their unit.

Soldiers can access Career Tracker with their Army Knowledge Online login credentials, either a common access card or username and password.

Once inside the ACT portal, soldiers have access to their various links and services.

(Page 3 of 3)

“Ideally, what we want to see is the soldiers arrive at their unit and sit down with their squad leader and talk about goals, and what the soldier needs to do to achieve those goals,” Sparks said.

Here's where ACT comes into play as a valuable tool for planning, as the leader and the soldier can look at the specifics of the soldier's situation — MOS, background, assignment history, assignment preferences, military and civilian education goals and milestones for each — and map out an individual development plan.

“It's very important for this kind of planning to have the leader involved,” Sparks said.

The individual development plan typically will look out one year, but it could be longer or shorter, depending on a soldier's career objectives.

Chandler said that as soldiers execute their individual development plans, “leaders at all levels must revisit ACT counseling to ensure every soldier's career readiness is synchronized with their progression.”

“We offer this on Army Career Tracker for setting short-term and long-term goals, drawing on specific information relevant to a soldier's training, experiences, preferences and aspirations,” Sparks said. “What you end up with is a kind of road atlas and schedule that can be used to determine where you are and where you want to go.”

ACT also should play an important role in a soldier's preparations to leave the Army and transition to civilian employment or schooling, according to Chandler.

Some of the resources available through ACT that support transition include the various services of the Army Continuing Education System, such as Credentialing Opportunities Online and the College of the American Soldier.

Career Tracker has the capability to allow a soldier to collaborate with leaders and mentors not only on career planning but preparing for transition, according to Sparks.

“For example, if I am moving forward with my personal goals, and one of those goals is to train in another MOS, my leaders and mentors will see that displayed in Career Tracker, and can comment on the pros and cons of reclassifying to that particular specialty.

“You can do that on both the personal and professional level,” he said.

Professional development

A new and evolving capability for Career Tracker is the staff role function, which allows leaders to produce tracking reports on the professional development activities of their subordinates, such as Structured Self-Development and Professional Military Education.

“You can determine how your soldiers are doing based on a percentage of completion basis,” Sparks said. “For example, if I am a first sergeant, I can determine how the soldiers in a platoon are doing with their Structured Self-Development.”

The staff role function for Professional Military Education allows leaders to keep tabs on their subordinates' progress in the education systems for NCOs, officers and warrant officers.

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