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Education & Training: Embrace life-long learning

Maj. Gen. Timothy S. Green, Director of Civil Engineers
Maj. Gen. Timothy S. Green
Director of Civil Engineers

    Life-long Learning. With the passing of summer, we have arrived at or are looking forward to our next assignments, and we're looking forward to a final break spending time with friends and family before the fall. Though summertime can be a respite from the daily grind of our duties, it's also the perfect time to consider our plans for the future and what we are doing to remain engaged life-long learners.

     While school years start and end, learning should not. From the time we take our oath until well beyond separation or retirement, we have a responsibility to ourselves to continually learn and improve. We need engineers who are agile thinkers and problem-solvers. We also need men and women who can communicate, have read some great books by important figures, and who understand historical and international contexts.

     There are many opportunities to refresh and engage. While on-the-job training gained from assignments is vitally important to our profession and capabilities, it needs to be complemented by periodic training, certification and other formal academic education. These formal educational opportunities help us to refresh our skills, inform us about changes to our field of work, and give us the opportunity to share information with other professionals who have the same interests. What's out there?  The Air Force provides many great resources for our Airmen pursuing this goal of life-long learning from the Air Force Institute of Technology, to Defense Acquisition University, to training exercises such as Silver Flag. We are committed to getting you the right information and support so that you can take advantage of these opportunities and more.

     Self-guided Education. While registering for and attending formal classes and courses can be challenging at times, self-guided education is something we can all do. Reading a few articles or a chapter of a book each week can be enough to break you out of the day-to-day routine and inspire new ideas. There are endless sources of information out there to take advantage of: publications from professional engineering and trades' organizations, military news outlets, management and leadership writings, academic journals, and leader biographies are just some of the options that have helped me throughout my career. It requires only a small, consistent investment of time to achieve profound benefits for ourselves and our organizations.

     Diversity Builds on Self-Improvement. I think that we as a Civil Engineer community also should take a moment to evaluate how effective we are at supporting diversity of thought, skills, knowledge, experiences, and demographics in our work force. This year, Secretary James continues to work towards her goals of Diversity and Inclusion and as Engineers, we can and should Lead the Way. We must capitalize on the individual strengths we all bring to the fight today as we build for tomorrow. Our CE Career Field Managers and their many partners around the Air Force have been looking carefully at ways we can increase and retain diversity in the STEM fields. We hope that their efforts will fuel a rich dialogue at our installations and staffs, to inspire discussion on where we might have institutional barriers to entry and how best to overcome them such that we can maximize our potential. You can expect to see articles and discussions on this topic from a CE perspective in the weeks and months ahead.

     Recently someone asked me why I think diversity is important in what many see as historically male dominated career field. The answer is pretty simple--by ensuring we don't have unnecessary barriers to serving, we increase the pool of potential recruits...military and civilian. By increasing the breadth of talent in our recruiting pool, we can be more selective and continue to improve the quality of our workforce. There is no doubt that today's engineering force is more capable than when I joined in 1986, and part of the reason is the significant growth in diversity, and specifically the percentage of women engineers we serve with. And don't be confused, we are not better simply because we have women engineers, but because the women and men we serve with today were selected over others who were less capable engineers and leaders. In other words, as we have cast a wider net for talent, we have assessed and retained a higher quality engineer corps across the board, among both women and men. We can't rest on our laurels; we all need to work together to continue to improve our ability to attract, retain and develop a diverse work force.

     Engineers ... Lead the Way! CE is a family and our family business is national security ... to fly, fight and win our nation's conflicts. Our commitment to be life-long learners and to foster greater diversity will ensure the thinking and innovation we need to adapt to changing technologies and organizations, to lead human beings with excellence, to persuade and reason, and to inspire others to follow. Choose to be a life-long learner and Lead the Way!