In the heart of California’s Inland Empire lies a hidden power player in Navy data analytics and warfighter support: Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Corona Division, complete with uniquely designed mission-based laboratories and its own in-house university.
The university framework plays a pivotal role in ensuring the Navy command works to capture and formally document decades of tribal knowledge. It also allows employees to understand non-subjective requirements that can advance their careers, maintains a trained and qualified workforce, promotes interdisciplinary collaboration and encourages cross training.
NSWC Corona boasts a diverse and educated workforce made up of about 1,900 civilians and military members who are focused on optimizing decision making for warfighting and fleet readiness. Each of them are eligible to enroll in Corona University courses.
“We recognize our people as our most important asset as we endeavor to support the warfighter and strengthen tomorrow’s Navy,” said Technical Director Dianne Costlow, Senior Executive Service. “One of our strategic goals is to nurture an engaged workforce by providing comprehensive training opportunities, enhancing developmental opportunities and developing expertise in competencies across the command. Corona University helps us do all of those things.”
Corona University is made up of six schools, also known as foundational pillars, where government employees can sign up for in-person or online classes: The School of Business, School of Acquisition and Readiness Assessment, School of Performance Assessment, School of Range Systems Engineering, School of Measurement Science and Engineering, and School of Management and Supervision, in addition to courses in general technical and common core competencies. Leadership and soft skills training are also on the menu.
Corona University began as a strategic initiative in 2019, with 85 100-level courses available to NSWC Corona employees. In just its second year of operation, its catalog was expanded to add 210 new courses, more than doubling the previous year’s course offerings and moving past the 200-level educational mark.
Perhaps most notable is the school’s flexibility and continued growth during the COVID-19 pandemic. When the pandemic put a stop to in-class group training, Corona University shifted to develop online, self-paced, virtual and pre-recorded courses that would effectively pick up the slack in the unforeseen circumstances.
“We saw an explosion in participation rates when COVID hit,” said Corona University Planning Board for Training Lead Lianne White. “People knew they could still enhance their knowledge online, and they marched onward with their professional development.”
Corona University quickly became the primary vehicle for training the workforce, especially the new hires and intermediate-level employees, and enhancing organizational succession planning. By ensuring every process, procedure and methodology is formally documented, the school helps the command avoid classic pitfalls associated with events like retirements, promotions, transfers and attrition. It also gives new hires access to a wealth of training and vital information at the click of a mouse.
“Courses are created by or in collaboration with subject matter experts and process owners,” said White. “If you want to know more about something within your field of practice, you can take courses from your own department. If you want to learn more about analysis, engineering, information technology, contracting, financial management, or a multitude of other disciplines, you can take classes from other departments. There’s so much freedom in what you can learn about, and I think that’s something our employees appreciate. It is on-demand learning tailored to their careers and professional interests, and it’s tuition free.”
In fiscal year 2020 alone, employees completed 1,659 classes, 5,349 mandatory training requirements and 17 rounds of new hire onboarding sessions using the Corona University program.
“The talent and skill level of our workforce increased under the worst of circumstances,” said White. “We never could have predicted this would happen, but the work we did in establishing Corona University really paid off. Society and normal life changed, but our workforce got sharper. That’s a big win not only for this command, but also for the warfighters we support.”
Surprisingly for a military unit, only 15 NSWC Corona team members are Sailors. Scientists, engineers, technicians, and business support specialists make up the lion’s share of the workforce.
“Esprit-de-corps is just as important in a heavily civilian workforce as it is in an active duty unit,” said White. “Like a lot of schools, we hold semi-annual rallies, seminars, lunch-and-learn sessions and testimonials. All are designed to keep our workforce informed and bring everyone together to further the Corona U mission and promote new course offerings or programs.”
Fiscal year 2021 brings additional courses to the school catalog, with its course development focus advancing to 300-level learning.
By prioritizing recruitment of the right team members, promoting their continued education and development, retaining them for the long haul and managing them in a way that empowers them to grow and improve while showcasing their talents, NSWC Corona remains well positioned for the future.
To learn more about Team Corona and its rewarding civilian career opportunities in support of your Navy, visit https://www.navsea.navy.mil/Home/Warfare-Centers/NSWC-Corona/Career-Opportunities/.
NSWC Corona Division has served as the Navy's independent assessment agent since 1964. With more than 3,900 engineers, scientists and support personnel, Sailors and contractors, NSWC Corona is located in Norco, California, with detachments in Fallbrook and Seal Beach and personnel in 14 additional locations. The Naval Sea Systems Command field activity provides transparency for warfighting readiness through data analytics and assessment, engineers the fleet’s Live Virtual Constructive training environment, and assures the accuracy of measurements as the engineering advisor for the Navy and Marine Corps metrology and calibration programs.