Nathan Huret • May 20, 2021

The Transition Toolkit: DoD’s Skillbridge Program

Having never been through it myself, I suspect one of the most worrisome periods of transitioning from years (or decades) of US military service, is getting a foot in the door BACK into the civilian job market.

You’ve most assuredly got connections and have obviously served our nation courageously in numerous capacities, yet that is not EXACTLY like being a Loan Officer at Wells Fargo.

To make that leap or to get beyond the limited experience hurdle, you should seriously consider something like the Department of Defense’s (DOD’s) Skillbridge Program – something that has been our organization’s radar for several years (before the pandemic and most definitely now).

For those that don’t know – the Skillbridge program allows active duty military (within that 180-day window of transitioning out) to explore the next step in their careers through apprenticeships, internships and courses across a wide diversity of industry.

The Basics of Skillbridge

The Skillbridge program is offered at over 1,447 locations and is available to military members of any rank and branch. Veterans and military spouses also have the opportunity to participate in an extension of the program.

DoD’s Skillbridge has over 500 partners in their network. The industries range from technology to construction to media and encompass everything in between. There is an opportunity for learning for military members of all backgrounds and skillsets.

The program is tremendous in so many respects – for instance, service members do not necessarily have to wait till they are out of any military branch to participate in these training and career opportunities!  While still considered active duty, your station of duty would shift to the site of that internship, fellowship, etc.

Additionally, because a paycheck matters – service members enrolled in Skillbridge don’t have to worry about getting food on the table or paying rent because they continue to receive their military compensation and benefits while in the program. This benefits the “host” organization as Skillbridge affords the opportunity to work with highly trained individuals at no additional cost.

Skillbridge Eligibility

The eligibility requirements for enrollment in Skillbridge are that the individuals must be a part of the military and can complete the program within the last 180 days of their service. The DoD recommends that military personnel complete or are near completing their Service’s transition program, so they know the full scope of their options. Commanders can approve or disapprove of an individual’s participation based on unit mission requirements.

Service members who want to apply for the program can apply through their installation Skillbridge point of contact. This point of contact may work in the transition assistance office, education office, or the installation support office. Military personnel stationed in a remote location without a Skillbridge point of contact can submit a contact form through the DoD website.

Suppose a service member is interested in an opportunity outside of their geographic area (umm…like say, Newton, North Carolina!). In that case, the Military Departments of a specific program can make arrangements for that individual to stay in any unoccupied space free of charge.

Skillbridge Success Stories

In an interview with MilitaryTimes, former Naval Commander Chuck Neu spoke highly of the program while stating that individuals will get out what they put into their internship. Since the programs are generally unstructured, it’s up to the service members to build relationships.

Neu’s journey with SkillBridge led him to run his own business. He interned with the Global SOF Foundation and started by making sales pitches via cold calls through the program. These calls made him realize that he had a penchant for sales, and his time with Global SOF exponentially expanded his network.

Another SkillBridge success story profiled by MilitaryTimes comes from Ryan Macababbad, a retired Army specialist.

Macababbad participated in the Microsoft Software and System Academy (MSSA) through SkillBridge in 2014. MSSA is well-known for introducing students to the skills needed for high-level technology jobs. Many candidates get the opportunity to interview for Microsoft at the end of the program.

Macababbad was one of these students and currently works for Microsoft as a senior identity architect manager.

“The best part about being in MSSA: I got an opportunity to start learning new languages — computer languages. But the most beneficial part was giving me a leg up. It was getting my foot in the door,” said Macababbad. “I’m very driven to succeed, and I was going to take advantage of every single opportunity that was presented to me. I worked really hard to prepare for that interview. And it paid off.”

For more information on the Skillbridge program or to find a location, visit the Skillbridge website.

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