Navy seeks to capture skills data

Service’s goal is to be better prepared by matching mission needs to training

The Navy has begun a major effort to capture data on the skills that employees need to perform their duties. The data collection and analysis will help the Navy meet the training and education needs of service members.

The Navy is working with SkillsNet, which makes software that automates the data-collection process. SkillsNet recently won a $35 million contract to continue work with the Navy. The company’s Skills Management System application suite will provide a core capability for that process.

A spokesman for the Naval Air Warfare Center-Orlando said the SkillsNet approach gives the Navy flexibility in defining the skills necessary for particular positions and providing training and career development opportunities tailored to individual service members.

The work of analyzing jobs is under way. “In the last 18 months, we’ve conducted over 1,000 job analyses,” said Michael Brown, founder and chief executive officer of SkillsNet.

The task is to identify the knowledge, skills and abilities required for naval work and maintain that information in a database. The occupational data capture and analysis effort will span the service’s entire workforce of civilians, officers, flag officers and enlisted service members.

“The most important thing we can provide is understanding the work and understanding how to align the right intervention,” Brown said. “Otherwise, it’s just a good guess.”

Intervention might take the form of instructor-led training or online learning, for example. To properly train employees, officials must link the competencies required to perform a given task to specific skills and then link those skills to appropriate content, training experts said.

In defining competencies, organizations must consider the context of the task or mission, said Elliott Masie, director at the Masie Center, a technology and learning think tank. A nuclear submarine, for example, could carry a payload of missiles or Navy Seals. A cargo-loading job would require different competencies, depending on the payload. The ability to pinpoint those competencies is critical in a fast-moving, unpredictable environment, Masie said.

The objective of the Navy program and similar efforts is to maintain profiles that track service members’ experience and training qualifications, said Paul Jesukiewicz, director at the Advanced Distributed Learning Co-Laboratory. The Defense Department established the laboratory as part of its Advanced Distributed Learning Initiative.

Using the profiles, the Navy can determine who is capable of completing a task for a specific mission. It can also identify those who lack certain skills, Jesukiewicz said. The service can then target the specific training required. The ability to quickly conduct a skills-gap analysis would let the Navy train service members while en route to a mission.

Among the services, the Navy has pushed the hardest toward automated job analysis, Jesukiewicz said, citing the service’s Integrated Learning Environment, which links competencies to skills and learning objects.

The Army is developing a similar Learning Management System. Jesukiewicz also said the Air Force has plans to deploy an integrated learning environment.

Nonetheless, Masie said, the scale of the Navy’s jobs analysis program is unprecedented. “I would tell you that there’s a great deal of envy from the corporate world.” Commercial enterprises, he said, rarely have the expertise, budget and top-down control to form a similar understanding of their workforce.

The Navy awarded SkillsNet a noncompetitive contract that will expire in March 2011. The company is performing the work in Waxahachie, Texas.

Readiness depends on content standardsAs military services undertake a variety of automated skills assessment projects, they rely on standards to synchronize their jobs analysis and training efforts. Two standards, in particular, are critical to the Navy’s servicewide jobs analysis program.

  • The Shareable Courseware Object Reference Model is a Defense Department standard that makes software-based learning content readily reusable.

  • The Occupational Information Network is a Labor Department standard that defines occupational characteristics and required skills.

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