Service members preparing to enter the civilian workforce can use the Department of Defense’s career transition program, SkillBridge, to explore career opportunities through internships and apprenticeships.
SkillBridge is a DOD effort to help military members transition more efficiently from military life to the civilian workforce. Now, after military 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 began as a pilot project in 2011 to address concerns about the return of U.S. military personnel to civilian life after the 2008 financial crisis. Lawmakers wanted to ensure that service members leaving the military at that time would be in 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 outside employers, developing skills to help them secure post-military employment.
“SkillBridge is an essential part of the investment the department makes in the future success of those who serve our nation in uniform,” Baxter said. “We are proud to see the number of companies and service members participating in this dynamic and meaningful program grow year over year, and we are responding to this growth in demand with redoubled oversight to ensure this opportunity retains its promise to service members for years to come.”
Long before their final 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 SkillBridge professional social networks to learn more about careers with no less than 1,700 different private sector companies now offering internships and apprenticeships.
With the support of their commanding officer, members can then move on to a private sector internship or apprenticeship program as early as six months before their end of service.
“The SkillBridge program is an opportunity for service members in the last 180 days of their 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. “It establishes a bond between an industry partner and a service member in real employment 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 issues and labor shortages in the trucking industry. SkillBridge offers several apprenticeship programs to help transitioning military members and veterans obtain their commercial driver’s license. Baxter said the White House views SkillBridge as essential to providing this critical industry with a trained and skilled workforce.
Military careers that are particularly successful at SkillBridge include those in the medical, transportation, and logistics fields. Service members who are nearing separation and are interested in finding post-military employment can visit the SkillBridge website at https://skillbridge.osd.mil.
“We don’t keep military personnel 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 prepare our people for success and is a great way to transition into a civilian career.”