ARCHIVE: Helping Today’s Inspectors Be Tomorrow’s Leaders with Tuition Reimbursement
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By Felicia Thompson, OPACE
The FSIS Continuing Education Program (CEP) provides up to $3,000 per year in tuition reimbursement for eligible food inspectors and consumer safety inspectors (CSI) who complete college courses related to food safety, and food, meat or animal science. To qualify, inspectors must have at least one year of Agency experience and be in good standing.
The CEP provides employees an opportunity to develop and enhance core competencies and further their education, so they can promote upward. It also helps inspectors enhance their job performance, as well as be eligible for other job opportunities at FSIS.
As of September 2021, more than 600 employees were currently or have previously participated in the program. More than half of them achieved one or more of the following milestones: earning 30 science credit hours, making them eligible for promotion; obtaining an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in food or animal science; or completing a food science/food safety-related certificate. Many have been promoted to CSIs, Supervisory CSIs or Enforcement, Investigations, and Analysis Officers.
Jesus Ibanez from the Springdale District started as a food inspector and later became a CSI. “I passed my Inspection Methods course on April 26, 2021. I am almost certain it was due to me taking classes, and I was one of the best qualified candidates.”
Although the number of participants has grown annually since 2017, some interested employees and participants have expressed concerns or lack of confidence that they can successfully complete college courses long after their high school days are over. The Agency recognizes that it can be intimidating to return to school, take college-level courses, and manage work/family life.
A key element of participating in the program includes employees identifying their short- and long-term career goals with FSIS, and determining how to navigate the CEP process, with help from the Office of Employee Engagement and Development.
Novella Blossom is an import inspector in the Dallas District. “I would not have completed my Meat Production Certificate if it weren’t for OEED and the CEP!” said Blossom. “The program specialist pushed me all the way through. When I couldn’t do it anymore, she made me think I could…and I did.”
“This summer I completed my Meat Production Certificate from Garden City Community College,” said Ibanez. “I also was on the President’s Honor Roll.”
Find more information about the CEP including how to apply at IPP Help Resources. You can also email ContinuingEducationProgram@usda.gov or call (301) 344-0734. There are three opportunities each year to apply to the CEP. The next enrollment is for the Spring 2022 semester, and the enrollment period is Oct. 25 – Dec. 2.