Civilian employees should start education applications early Published March 2, 2011 By Debbie Gildea Air Force Personnel, Services and Manpower Public Affairs RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas (AFNS) -- Hundreds of professional development opportunities are available annually for civilian employees. Many of those slots go unfilled, in part because eligible candidates wait until the last minute to prepare and staff their application packages. For example, annually, 280 Civilian Acculturation and Leadership Training program positions, 100 Squadron Officer School slots and 180 Air Command and Staff College Distance Learning Master's Program slots are available to civilians, said Loretta Brown, the civilian leadership development chief here. Many people are under the impression that participating in the civilian developmental education program is only for senior civilians, or that they will be forced to relocate if they participate. That is not true in most cases. "There are opportunities for employees at every pay and leadership level, varying from the CALT program to in-residence Air War College," Ms. Brown said. "Only certain programs commit the employee to continued service agreements and relocation. But those programs are primarily senior leadership programs." The three civilian developmental education levels include tactical, operational and strategic. Tactical level programs (new employee orientation and CALT) are primarily for new civilian employees, although civilians hired before NEO was implemented are encouraged to complete the seven-module online program. Major differences between NEO and CALT are that NEO is mandatory for all new civilian hires and must be completed within 90 days of accession, while CALT is optional, and only non-prior military employees are eligible. Operational level programs include Education with Industry, SOS, ACSC DL Master's Program, and Intermediate Developmental Education Programs. Operational-level programs exist to educate and develop interested mid-career employees. Each program has individual eligibility requirements, but all are designed to grow future civilian leaders. Finally, strategic level options include senior developmental education programs, like Air War College, and strategic leadership education programs, such as the Executive Development Seminar. Strategic level programs exist to prepare high-potential employees for increased responsibility and shared leadership. Again, eligibility requirements differ depending on the program selected, but a common denominator is that strategic level programs are for GS 14 and 15 employees, or their equivalent. Information on all CDE programs is available on the AFPC Force Development Web page. Type "civilian force development" in the search field, and then select the green updated civilian force development home page link. Civilian employees who want to grow their careers have education opportunities at every level, said Brown. But to make sure they have every advantage, they need to get started on the application. The civilian developmental education call is open now with applications due May 1. For more information, visit the Air Force personnel services website or call the Total Force Service Center at 800-525-0102.