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Transitioning Out of the Military? Look at DoD’s SkillBridge

By Chelsea Zbikowski
Corporate Recruiter

Retiring or separating from the military can be challenging, especially when you’re trying to determine what career you want to pursue post-separation. Luckily, you’re not alone in this process.

The Department of Defense’s (DoD’s) SkillBridge program helps transitioning servicemembers like you navigate your next steps once you have completed your military service. You have gained many transferable job skills during your time in the military, and now it’s time to put those skills to work.

What Is SkillBridge?

The DoD’s SkillBridge program is an opportunity for military members to gain valuable work experience through specific industry training, apprenticeships and internships. Participants get to work with employers, who act as industry partners. You’ll have the opportunity to match your military or other job training and experience to various job opportunities.

According to the Pew Research Center, 26% of veterans find shifting into a post-military career very difficult. If you’re apprehensive about transitioning out of the military, SkillBridge is an excellent program to investigate.

Cushman & Wakefield Military Recruiting Program Leader Matt Disher notes that the SkillBridge program “has the potential to solve post-military employment disparities that have challenged veterans for generations.” SkillBridge opportunities help military members navigate non-military employment environments and learn to use their unique skillsets in new ways.

However, it’s important to note that participating employers will not provide compensation or benefits for your participation in the SkillBridge program. If you participate, you will continue to receive your regular military pay and benefits. Make sure you check with your military service administration first, as there are exceptions to this rule.

Eligibility Requirements for SkillBridge Participation

Before researching SkillBridge programs, it is important to note that not all servicemembers may qualify for inclusion. You may be eligible to participate in SkillBridge if you:

  • Have less than 180 days of service remaining prior to your date of separation and have at least 180 continuous days of active service
  • Agree that participation in SkillBridge can be terminated at any time by your military service if mission requirements dictate it

Some industry partners will allow military spouses and veterans to participate in a SkillBridge training if there is available capacity. The DoD will not pay a salary or provide benefits for spouses or veterans who participate in a training program, but the industry partner might provide compensation.

If you’re a military spouse, consider seeking career advice through the DoD’s Spouse Education and Career Opportunities (SECO) program.

The Benefits of Participating in a SkillBridge Program

According to Amazon Military Programs Manager Beau Higgins, SkillBridge provides the best opportunity for military members to transition into a non-military role.

The DoD SkillBridge program is designed to give you a useful opportunity to put your skills to work before you separate from the military. The job market may have changed in the time you’ve spent in service. By participating in a SkillBridge program, you can enhance your marketability in today’s job market.

In SkillBridge, you also get to network with potential employers who have exciting opportunities available. The connections you make along the way will help you easily make the transition into your new career journey.

Amazon is fully committed to this program, hiring over 200 transitioning servicemembers through several SkillBridge programs in the last year. Higgins notes, “As a transitioning servicemember, you cannot afford to pass up this opportunity, if at all possible.”

John Deere is another DoD SkillBridge industry partner that offers internship opportunities to transitioning servicemembers at their dealership and factory locations. According to Workforce Project Manager David Ottavianelli, SkillBridge helps servicemembers learn about the industry and understand potential career options post-military. 

How to Find SkillBridge Opportunities

The DoD has a running list of training opportunities with authorized employers. Opportunities are available in various industry fields, such as:

  • Civil service
  • Energy
  • Information technology
  • Manufacturing
  • Retail
  • Transportation

We strongly advise you to use DoD’s SkillBridge search tool to locate opportunities you want to explore. You can also reach out to your military installation’s SkillBridge contact person to find SkillBridge training opportunities. You can locate your SkillBridge contact person by visiting your base Education Office, Transition Assistance Office, or your unit’s command support staff. 

50Strong is another organization that helps servicemembers find SkillBridge opportunities. 50Strong’s mission is to support the collaborative efforts of industry stakeholders toward a veteran-ready workforce ecosystem. They provide several services, such as Employer Connects and SkillBridge Connects, that help servicemembers learn about available SkillBridge options as well as connect you with companies who are hiring.  

After you have researched SkillBridge programs, contact your Unit Commander. They will need to authorize your participation before you sign an agreement with an employer.

The University’s Career Services Department works with a multitude of employers who also participate in the SkillBridge program, including:

  • Adobe
  • Amazon
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
  • Lockheed Martin
  • Raytheon Technologies

The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.

Chelsea Zbikowski has worked for the University since 2015, serving in the Financial Aid Office, Student & Alumni Affairs, and Career Services. As a Corporate Recruiter for the Career Services Department, Chelsea works with employers to promote their current career opportunities to university students and alumni. She received her bachelor’s in business administration from Shepherd University in 2015 and her MBA from APU in 2020.

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