The 412th Test Wing recently made changes to the Civilian Degree and Training Programs with the addition of a new tuition assistance program, the Civilian Academic Degree Program. The 412th TW now has three programs augmenting the Air Force Civilian Tuition Assistance Program: Academic Degree & Certification Training, and Long-Term, Full-Time Program, and the new CADP.
The three programs now provide a variety of opportunities for the civilian workforce to get degrees and advanced degrees. The CADP was designed to take advantage of post COVID academia educational remote instruction advancements while providing civilians a platform to present their degree aspirations that will enhance their mission contribution, stated, Mr. Dan Osburn, 412th TW Senior Technical Director.
The CADP allows DAF civilians to have their tuition and books fully funded and receive up to 8 hrs/week paid time for school studies while still working, unlike the Long-Term, Full-Time (LTFT) program, which takes students away from their jobs for up to 18 months. Now we have several methods for our workforce to obtain educational degrees to accelerate our test mission. All programs have a great return on investment for the Air Force while increasing civilian retention and educating our workforce, stated Osburn.
“The Civilian Academic Degree Program is the program that I wish had existed when I was getting my master’s degree,” said Rebecca Martin, Sensors Integration Flight Chief, 775th Test Squadron. “It removes the financial burden and has a pressure relief valve of eight hours per week to be focused on school.”
Martin, who helped champion the changes along with other members of Team Edwards, sought to ease the financial burden she foresaw coming for employees.
“One area I was really advocating for was to allow employees to present a desired degree path. Roughly seven years ago, I knew an engineer that was trying to get LTFT to fund a data sciences master's, but as it wasn’t in the requirements, it was not funded. Fast forwarding to now: data sciences, machine learning, and AI are going to be critical. By allowing the employee to ‘pitch’ their proposed degree, we open our aperture to programs outside the normal scope we tend to see in LTFT requirements,” Martin explained. “Our workforce wants to innovate, wants to improve how we do things, and this tuition assistance program allows people to advocate for themselves.”
Chris Allyas, 775th Test Squadron, currently pursuing a master's in Mechanical Engineering at California State University – Northridge, emphasizes the CADP's role in hastening his academic journey. The program's provision of 8 hours per week for school purposes not only allows Allyas to take two classes a semester but also helps him manage the commute time to and from school. The CADP's financial support, covering tuition and parking costs, has proven instrumental, removing significant financial barriers for Allyas.
“This program has also greatly helped me financially by covering the entire cost of the tuition, including parking, which ends up being close to $6,000 a year,” Allyas said. “My career goal here at Edwards is to eventually make Tech Expert in automation or Artificial Intelligence, which will supplement my master’s degree in Dynamics and Robotics.”
Tyler Moore, Maintenance Operations Controller, 412th Maintenance Group, reflected on how the CADP has played a crucial role in his decision to pursue a master's degree. The program's timing was opportune for Moore as he was completing his degree under the GI Bill. The 100% tuition coverage provided by CADP influenced his decision to continue his education, offering financial stability that might have otherwise been a barrier.
“The CADP started at a lucky time for me as I was mainly starting my master’s degree to finish out my GI Bill and on the fence if I would continue paying out of pocket once that was up,” Moore said. “Obviously, with the 100% tuition coverage from CADP, I am going to continue the degree until finished that I may not have without it.”
Moore, like other DAF civilians, plans to leverage advanced education to be able to further their careers and take on more challenging roles or improve their expertise on certain topics in the workplace.
“I decided to pursue project management due to the test mission here at Edwards. While my current position does not offer much freedom in work activities, it is also equally low in responsibilities,” he explained. “The goal for obtaining my degree is knowledge and skills to take on more managerial or leadership and technical roles at Edwards.”
“I think, in the big picture, the MXG, Air Force Materiel Command, and Air Force as a whole want their members to pursue higher learning. Not everything learned in school is technical or task-oriented. There are many curricula that focus on how to be a good manager, a good leader, and a good teammate,” Moore added.
The CADP is not only for newer employees but also for those who may have already been employed for a long time and wish to learn new skills.
“As a 16+ year engineer at Edwards, I’m acutely aware that what I learned in school with regards to programming and computer capabilities is out of date. Higher education refines our skill sets, sharpens our engineering blades, and also introduces us to newer concepts,” Martin said. “I completed my masters degree while working full time. During one of my systems engineering courses, it required fishbone diagramming for failure analysis which happened to occur at the same time I needed to create one for a system I was analyzing. This highlighted the benefit of going to school while working as I could immediately implement the techniques I learned.”
Collectively, the perspectives of employees who have utilized CADP underscore its broader impact on Edwards AFB workforce. The program's financial support, flexibility, and alignment with individual aspirations contribute to a culture of continuous learning and innovation.
By empowering Air Force civilians to pursue higher education in diverse fields and allowing them to actively shape their educational paths, the CADP not only supports individual growth but also enriches the collective knowledge and expertise within the base, ensuring a brighter, more innovative future for Edwards.
Those interested in CADP and the other 412th Test Wing funded civilian tuition assistance programs can contact Peggie Schofield at the Education and Training Office at (661) 277-9745 or by email at Peggie.email@example.com for more information.