Big changes are coming to those serving in the United States Air Force or United States Space Force. Effective Oct. 1, the Department of the Air Force implemented two specific and significant changes to the execution of the Department of Defense’s (DoD’s) SkillBridge program, which could impact Airmen and Guardians who are preparing for retirement or separation.

The changes include a completely new automated processing and approval system accessible through the Air Force Virtual Education Center. Additionally, Department of the Air Force members can now only use DoD-approved SkillBridge providers or joint base-approved cohort programs.

“Standardizing the provider criteria at the DoD level and creating one consolidated resource from which military members can select training opportunities will save our military members time,” said Michelle Marinelli, the voluntary education business process owner at the Air Force Personnel Center.

Using DoD-vetted programs will assist Airmen and Guardians to participate in SkillBridge programs that are routinely reviewed. An advantage of this change is that members will have continued access to a DoD database of more than 1,100 organizations with training opportunities at more than 2,220 locations. However, the Department of the Air Force no longer vets or approves new providers as of Oct. 1.

About the DoD’s SkillBridge

The DoD’s SkillBridge program was developed as an opportunity for service members to gain valuable civilian work experience through specific-industry training, apprenticeships or internships. It allows active-duty personnel from all four branches spend the last 180 days of their military service interning at civilian jobs with one of more than 500 industry partners.

There are many industry partners with opportunities in a variety of fields, such as energy, information technology (IT), manufacturing, retail, transportation, civil service and more. These industry partners have developed unique SkillBridge programs for separating service members because they value your expertise, dedication and service.

The training is now provided by one of 1,311 SkillBridge-approved industry partners – including such companies as Amazon, Boeing, General Dynamics, and KBR. There are currently 2,637 SkillBridge training programs available to service members.

The key benefit of SkillBridge is that the industry partners offer real-world training and work experience in in-demand fields of work while having the opportunity to evaluate the service member’s suitability for the work.

“The Skillbridge program is available for all Airmen and Guardians to apply,” said Russell Frasz, the director of Force Development. “We want members to have the skills they need to successfully transition to civilian employment and this is a great opportunity for them.”

Any rank, enlisted or officer, may apply for SkillBridge. During SkillBridge participation, service members continue to receive military compensation and remain covered by other military benefits. Release for SkillBridge is always mission-dependent and your unit Commander must authorize participation prior to entering into any agreement with interested industry employment partners. Commanders may also approve, disapprove or modify applications based on mission requirements.

Planning Ahead

SkillBridge can also provide an opportunity to plan upwards to a year before separating from the service.

“Service members can start the application process 12 months prior to their approved date of separation or retirement date that is reflected in the Military Personnel Data System, but no later than 30 days prior to the first day of training start date,” explained Angela Daniels, a training management specialist in the Base Education and Training at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia.

She added that SkillBridge matches civilian opportunities to the service member’s job training and work experience to make them more marketable after their military career ends. It can also help service members feel at ease knowing that companies authorized for SkillBridge are legitimate and value their expertise, dedication and service.

 

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Peter Suciu is a freelance writer who covers business technology and cyber security. He currently lives in Michigan and can be reached at petersuciu@gmail.com.