Between 1999 and 2008, the number of women in the Coast Guard climbed from about 12% to 17% and minority representation increased from about 12.5% to 17%. Sure, it’s good that we have an upward trend but the numbers are just one aspect of a three pronged approach to recruiting and retaining our service members. We consider quality, quantity and diversity to be the essence of a strong workforce.
So, what are some of the things we do to GET and KEEP a diverse Coast Guard family?
- Coast Guard Academy Scholars program . This is a one year academic preparation program for students desiring an appointment to the Coast Guard Academy. The program is a great opportunity for Academy prospects and helps to increase their success in the Academy. The program is currently at 60 students with an expected increase to 70 next year.
- College Student Pre-Commissioning Initiative Scholarship (CSPI) program . CSPI is not only a scholarship program that ensures a greater visibility at minority serving institutions, but it also has a record of attracting successful minority officer candidates. Of the current 42 candidates in the program, 48 percent are minority and 38 percent are female.
- Outreach with colleges/universities. Coast Guard leadership has worked to develop and maintain solid relationships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic serving institutions, and tribal council schools to make certain that underrepresented students have awareness of and access to the Coast Guard’s educational and employment opportunities.
- Pre-Commissioning Program for Enlisted Personnel (PPEP) . PPEP is an excellent promotion-from-within program to advance enlisted members’ education and Coast Guard careers. Members who meet qualification requirements can apply for PPEP and attend college full-time for up to two years. Candidates receive a full scholarship and continue to receive pay and benefits while in school. Upon graduation, candidates attend Officer Candidate School to receive an officer commission. (Take it from me as a product of PPEP, it is a GREAT opportunity).
- Advanced Education programs. With over 40 programs for enlisted, officer, and civilian employees, the opportunity to receive an advanced education in the Coast Guard is tremendous and too many to mention in this post. For more information, go to Chapter 3 of COMDTINST M1500.10B Training and Education Manual.
- Affinity group participation. Members are actively encouraged to attend and participate in multiple national level affinity groups including the Association of Naval Service Officers (ANSO), the National Naval Officers Association (NNOA), Naval Officer Mentorship Program, the Sea Service Leadership Association, the Blacks in Government and the National Association of African-Americans in the Department of Homeland Security. The leadership, outreach and networking opportunities these groups provide are essential to career development and advancement.
- Temporary Separation (see Chapter 12 Section F of COMDTINST M1000.6A Personnel Manual). Historically, the temporary separation policy allowed a Coast Guard member to temporarily separate from the service for up to two years. Recently, the program was expanded from one single opportunity to participate to two opportunities for a total of up to four years of separation. This expanded policy was done after research conducted by the Diversity Advisory Council found that this would help balance a member’s career with his/her need to care for family and/or to pursue personal interests.
One other way we improve our processes is through the information gathered when members leave the service. As part of our ongoing internal initiatives to assess our workforce satisfaction, the Coast Guard is conducting exit interview on-line focus groups with members who have 10 years or less of service and are choosing to leave. Interviews will also be conducted with members who have continued to serve and the information gathered from both groups will be compared and contrasted.
The programs listed here only touch the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the endless opportunities and resources available to the members of the Coast Guard. I could go on and on, boring you with the details about mutual assistance, tuition assistance, the Montgomery GI Bill, the Post-911 GI Bill, direct commission programs, the Thrift Savings Plan, the vast number of leadership and development courses offered, and so on. But, I will let you “link on” if you want more information.
This post may sound a bit mushy and personal, but it is personal to me. Both my career and my life have been shaped by many of these programs. I encourage all members and employees to seek out the opportunities that are right for them.