The Pentagon recently reported that it is realigning the Department of Defense’s SkillBridge program and during this “strategic pause”, it is not approving any new training providers/employers. Based on an organizational review by the Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, the realignment will enable it to better meet the policy requirements of the readiness program.

Part of the realignment is splitting the duties from the singular Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Readiness to two offices – the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manpower and Reserve Affairs for oversight, and Defense Human Resources Agency for operations. The program has targeted August 15 as the date when it will again start accepting applications for new providers/employers into the SkillBridge program.

Since the program’s inception in 2011, it has trained more than 50,000 service members through approved apprenticeship training programs from 3,312 authorized providers in skills they can use in the civilian workplace once separated from the military.

Six months out from separation, active-duty military members can request, through their chain of command, enrollment in the SkillBridge apprenticeship training program. Once authorized by the requestor’s Commander, the training is considered official duty during normal working hours. Military members continue to get their regular pay and benefits while in the program and there is no cost to the student to attend the SkillBridge training.

Aside from the Pentagon, in March, the Navy independently reviewed the SkillBridge program and released instructions not only on how sailors can take part in apprenticeships, but also when. Part of those new instructions dictate that the only applications now accepted will be ones submitted via the MyNavy Education portal.

The Navy also created a four-tiered system as to when enlisted sailors and officers can apply to SkillBridge:

  1. Tier 1 – enlisted E5 and below – 180 days or less
  2. Tier 2 – enlisted E6 to E9 – 120 days or less
  3. Tier 3 – officers O4 and below – 120 days or less
  4. Tier 4 – officers O5 and above – 90 days or less

Under the new instructions, officers have more restrictions than enlisted. For example, Tier 4 officers can participate in SkillBridge only if it will not leave a gap in their billet. Other officers must have fulfilled their service obligation first before being allowed to participate in SkillBridge.

For enlisted, they too must have completed any service-funded education obligated service, such as tuition assistance. For enlisted sailors that are on special or incentive pay, their approval for participation lies with their Commander and their attendance may be denied (or curtailed) if attendance would impact the unit’s mission readiness.

As the popularity of SkillBridge continues to grow, the realignment of duties was necessary to keep up with the demand for SkillBridge training. If you are an employer wanting to be an approved training source, keep the August 15 date marked on your calendar.

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Kness retired in November 2007 as a Senior Noncommissioned Officer after serving 36 years of service with the Minnesota Army National Guard of which 32 of those years were in a full-time status along with being a traditional guardsman. Kness takes pride in being able to still help veterans, military members, and families as they struggle through veteran and dependent education issues.