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Department of Labor offers degree alternative to service members

US Marine Corps News

6/27/2008 By Cpl. Juan D. Alfonso , Marine Forces Pacific

CAMP H.M. SMITH, Hawaii — — Editors note: This is the second in a four-part series on education.

For some, a college degree is their dream, but many service members don’t have the time to pursue it.

The Department of Labor offers an alternative program that doesn’t require any after-hours work.

The United Services Military Apprenticeship Program offers Marines, sailors and Coast Guardsmen the opportunity to attain a Journeyman’s Certificate if their occupational field is equivalent to a civilian trade.

The certificate is a document stating an individual has achieved a level of expertise in a technical field, such as communications technology or photography, which guarantees better jobs and salaries in the civilian world, said Craig Lockwood, an education specialist with the Joint Education Center, Marine Corps Base Hawaii.

“The reality of the situation is not everyone needs a degree to make a good amount of money,” he said. “A lot of jobs, like mechanics and construction workers, don’t ask for a degree. What they want is on-the-job training, and the Department of Labor trusts military training.

“This is probably the easiest (education) program to do. It requires no money, no studying, little time and (little) work. All you have to do is track your work hours.”

While enrolled in the program, service members track their work hours and divide those hours into specific trade-related categories. Once the minimum number of hours in each category is met, a Journeyman’s Certificate is issued.

The only additional requirement is weekly, monthly and semiannual reports apprentices must fill out and have signed by their supervisors, section chiefs and officers in charge, respectively. Each report can be done online and given to an education specialist to submit.

Many service members approached Lockwood in the past, that have worked in a technical field for years, and asked if they could use time already spent toward their apprenticeship. E-4s and above can receive up to half of their required hours in bonus hours, awarded according to time spent working in their occupational field, prior to enrolling in the program.

Service members on deployment also have an opportunity to complete the program much quicker.

“I highly recommend the program, especially if you go (on deployment,)” said Sgt. Tracey Mahan, a machinist journeyman and machinist with Combat Service Support Group 3, 3rd Marine Logistics Group. “If your job’s a trade, like welder or diesel mechanic, you can knock it out fast. Because you’re going to be working a lot more than just eight-hour days.”

One issue service members should be aware is those who do not submit a report within an 18-month period are removed from the program. They may reclaim their logged hours however, they can’t claim any of their bonus hours.

Regardless of what might happen, Lockwood strongly urges all eligible service members to consider an apprenticeship.

“If you’re planning to work in the same field when you leave the military, you are cheating yourself by not participating in this program,” Lockwood said. “It’s a no brainer.”

For those that don’t plan to continue a similar career in the civilian sector, Mahan still recommends considering an apprenticeship.

“Even if you don’t like your job, you will always have your Journeyman’s Certificate to fall back on,” she said.

More than 51 Military Occupational Specialties are eligible for the program.

To enroll and for more information, service members can visit the USMAP Web site at https://usmap.cnet.navy.mil or contact the JEC at 257-2158.

Next week, the Sailor-Marine American Council On Education Registry Transcript program or SMART.

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