By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (June 03, 2022) -- Separating service members who are preparing to enter the civilian workforce can use the Defense Department's career transition program, SkillBridge, to explore career opportunities through internships and apprenticeships.
SkillBridge is one DOD effort to help service members more successfully transition from military life into the civilian workforce. Now, after service members complete the Transition Assistance Program before separating from the military, they can also apply to participate in SkillBridge to help them find meaningful civilian employment.
Skillbridge has been around for about 10 years. It started as a pilot in 2011 to address concerns about U.S. military personnel returning to civilian life following the 2008 financial crisis. Lawmakers wanted to ensure service members leaving the military at that time would be able to find work.
According to Caroline Baxter, deputy assistant secretary of defense for force education and training, more than 50,000 service members have participated in the program with external employers, developing skills to help them secure post-military employment.
"SkillBridge is a critical part of the investment the department makes in the future success of those who serve our nation in uniform," said Baxter. "We are proud to see the number of companies and service members participating in this vibrant and consequential program grow year over year, and we are meeting this growth in demand with redoubled oversight to ensure this opportunity retains its promise to service members for years to come."
Well before their last six months of military service, eligible service members should meet with a career counselor at their military installation to begin the process of using Skillbridge. There, they can use the SkillBridge website and professional SkillBridge social media networks to learn about careers with as many as 1,700 different private sector companies now offering internships and apprenticeships.
With the support of their commander, service members can then move into a private sector internship or apprenticeship program as early as six months before their end of service.
"The SkillBridge program is an opportunity provided to service members during the last 180 days of their time in service to give them valuable civilian work experience through industry training, apprenticeships or internships," said Gary J. Schaub Jr., senior advisor for professional military education. "This establishes a connection between an industry partner and a service member in a real-world job to facilitate their transition to employment after separation."
SkillBridge was recently highlighted as part of President Joe Biden's Trucking Action Plan, which aims to address supply chain concerns and trucking industry workforce shortages. SkillBridge has several apprenticeship programs to help transitioning service members and veterans obtain their commercial driver's licenses. Baxter indicated that the White House considers SkillBridge to be an essential part of providing this critical industry with a trained and capable workforce.
Military careers that do particularly well within SkillBridge include those in medical, transportation and logistics. Service members who are approaching separation and are interested in finding post-military employment can visit the SkillBridge website at https://skillbridge.osd.mil.
"We don't keep service members in for life," Schaub said. "Instead, we have a force where people come in and serve for a set period of time -- normally between four and 30 years. SkillBridge helps us set our people up for success and is a great way to transition to a civilian career."