Diversity/Careers in Engineering & Information Technology



April/May 2011

Diversity/Careers April/May 2011 Issue

Women of color in IT
Aerospace & defense
Insurance IT
Manufacturing tech
Civil engineering
BEYA conference

Veteran-owned companies
WBENC conference preview
News & Views
Regional roundup
Supplier diversity

Diversity in action
News & Views

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  Johns Hopkins APL

Diversity In Action

The U.S. Air Force Civilian Service brings in lots of young techies

Besides aircraft, the Air Force has needs involving infrastructure, satellites and cyberspace. It all means work for IT pros and other savvy folks

Civilians are needed to provide admin, ops and tech support to the U.S. Air Force; IT pros are particularly in demand, says Saul Ortigoza, civilian service career field administrator for scientists and engineers.

"People think of the Air Force in terms of aircraft, but there are also satellites and infrastructure, and cyberspace is a big new area for us," Ortigoza says. "There are jobs for IT pros at every location throughout the Air Force because every base everywhere has computers."

Cyberspace is a new mission and big growth area. The Air Force recognizes that times are changing and there are now millions of personal computers in use, Ortigoza says. "We're always concerned with someone hacking in and taking personal information" or doing other kinds of mischief.

IT people with security clearances are especially in demand, and the civilian service has authority to expedite the employment process for them, says Mike Brosnan, chief of workforce planning and enterprise recruiting. In the Washington, DC area the civilian service is working with hiring managers at Fort Mead and the Air Force Washington district. "As we come across people who are qualified we make tentative offers on the spot," Brosnan says.

There are many other "job series" in demand, in the fields of general engineering and safety, materials, civil, environmental, mechanical, nuclear, electrical, computer, electronics, biomedical, aerospace, petroleum, ceramic, chemical, welding and industrial engineering.

In the past two years several hundred engineers have been hired. The Air Force employs 12,500 civilians in the scientist and engineer career field, about eighty percent of them engineers.

There's also need for scientists and researchers. "The type of work ranges from strategic policy to hands-on research and everything in between, like the development and maintenance of weapons systems and logistics. When decommissioning systems we focus on safety, security and the environment," Brosnan explains, creating a need for specialists in those areas.

The first requirement for hire is, of course, a degree from an accredited university: a BS in EE, aerospace, ME or another technical field. The Air Force labs are often looking for PhDs.

The Air Force Civilian Service has a centrally managed program for entry-level scientists and engineers, says Melissa Corse, scientist and engineer career field admin. The first year involves on-the-job training; the second year the participants go back to school for an MS, getting their full salaries plus full tuition at the universities they attend. "Most complete their degree in one year and come back for a third year of on-the-job training. Then they move into permanent positions," Corse says.

The Department of Defense recently launched the SMART Program: Science, Math and Research Transformation (www.asee.org/smart) for undergrads and grad students in STEM fields. Current employees are also eligible for these scholarships if they have outstanding ability and aptitude for product development, Ortigoza says. "This program selects people every year. We started with twenty-six selections in 2005 and we're up to 300 today."

The civilian service recruits at conferences like Black Engineer of the Year, Great Minds in STEM, SWE, NSBE, SHPE and MAES. Each geographic region also does its own hiring at local schools including HBCUs.

A federal executive board leads a diversity effort under the umbrella of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, and diversity councils are spread around the country at military units and bases, Corse explains. Local installations have program managers to support each minority group.

The civilian service has a general mentoring program for interested employees, and there are some informal programs as well, usually at the base level. There are also development teams as part of an Air Force-wide program.

Lt Col Belinda Petersen, chief of media relations, points out that caring for its service people is a top priority of the Air Force, and that includes civilians as well as enlisted folks. Bowling, golf and gyms are available in many locations as well as daycare centers and sometimes flex time or alternative work schedules.

Many employees are active in their communities, Brosnan says; some locations offer "partnerships in education," giving employees time off to help teachers in the classroom.

Employees also volunteer with Habitat for Humanity, the United Way and more. Some locations have outreach programs to local high schools concentrating on STEM disciplines, and some participate in the National Defense Education Program (www.ndep.us) for K-12 children.


United States Air Force Civilian Service

Headquarters: Randolph AFB, TX
Employees: More than 180,000
Business: Provides administrative, operations and technical support to the U.S. Air Force

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