The SkillBridge program is a valuable opportunity for military members to gain hands-on experience and training in civilian career fields during their last 30-180 days of service. By participating in SkillBridge, servicemembers can explore their interests, network with employers, and acquire new skills that can help them succeed in their post-military careers.
This program offers a huge win-win scenario for both you and the employer: You can compete for great jobs because you work for “free” while you’re already drawing full military pay and benefits, while the civilian employer gets access to a hugely valuable asset at no cost (you). Don’t miss out on the chance to participate in SkillBridge and set yourself up for success in the civilian workforce.
Just remember: This program goes nowhere without your chain of command’s approval. SkillBridge is not an entitlement, but it’s worth fighting for.
And you are going to have to fight for it. This program is amazing, but isn’t widely understood. Getting it approved requires you to get signatures on a piece of paper. So. Many. Signatures. You have to be a persistent, squeaky wheel. The most successful SkillBridger email chain I’ve seen recently involved a humble E-4 who pinged their supervisor every Monday at 05:45 a.m. via email. After week 5 their supervisor started dropping F-bombs. They kept at it. After week 8 there were physical threats and ALL CAPS. Still, they kept at it. After week 12 their supervisor just gave up and hand-carried the packet to the CO’s office and got it signed. That’s how it’s done, folks.
- SkillBridge is all about your relationship with your chain of command and direct supervisor.
- Nobody is going to research this program except for you.
- Get started early.
- SkillBridge is the first step in a three-part transition journey.
- SkillBridge is all about your relationship with your chain of command.
If you’re thinking about SkillBridge, here’s the deal: Your direct supervisor and chain of command can make or break your chances of getting into the program. It doesn’t matter what the rules say or how good your application looks. If your boss or unit doesn’t support your plans, you’re not going anywhere for SkillBridge. So, you need to get them on your side by explaining why SkillBridge is a win-win for you and the military. Talk to them, build a relationship, and show them that you’re serious about your career and that SkillBridge can help you develop new skills and connections that will benefit the military too. Don’t get stuck on a single SkillBridge start date. Be willing to bargain down from the 180-day maximum. In many cases, your command or service branch will mandate much less than the 180-day SkillBridge max. Be smart and do your research. If you can convince your boss and chain of command that SkillBridge is worth it, you’re golden. But realise it’s not just about getting permission; it’s about being a leader and a communicator. And by ‘leader’ we mean the smartest person in the room about SkillBridge.
Nobody is Going to Research this Program Except for You
In a review of 400 SkillBridge applicants. Only 8% of the folks succeed in their applications. The biggest predictor of failure seen is an opening question, “Sir how does this whole thing work?”
Seriously, it’s on you to do the legwork and figure out how it works, who’s eligible, and how to apply. Fortunately, there’s a great resource that can help you get started: the OSD SkillBridge website. This is your bible for all things SkillBridge, and you need to study it like your life depends on it. Here’s what you need to research from that site:
Eligibility requirements: Make sure you meet the basic criteria for SkillBridge, which vary by service branch. You’d better be ready to recite a clear, brief, focused post-military career goal in paperwork and when questioned by anybody in your chain of command.
Participating partners: Check out the list of civilian companies, organisations, and agencies that have signed up for SkillBridge, and see if any of them align with your interests and skills.
Application process: Learn about the steps you need to take to apply for SkillBridge, including getting approval from your chain of command, finding a participating partner, and completing the necessary paperwork. Your command career counselor or base career center will also get involved, be sure to check in with them.
Training and employment opportunities: Explore the types of training and employment opportunities that SkillBridge offers, such as internships, apprenticeships, job shadowing, and on-the-job training.
Benefits and obligations: Understand the benefits and obligations of participating in SkillBridge, such as receiving your military pay and benefits while training, but also being subject to military regulations and standards. Here’s a big one: You aren’t allowed to receive any compensation of any kind from your civilian SkillBridge employer. Why? Because you’re still a DoD employee during SkillBridge.
The OSD SkillBridge website is just the starting point. You also need to do your own research, ask questions, and seek out guidance from mentors, peers, and SkillBridge alumni. Don’t rely on others to spoon-feed you the information. Take ownership of your career and start digging in today.
Get Started Early
The key to success is to start early. I mean really early. Don’t wait until the last minute to apply, or you’ll be in for a world of hurt. Why? There are a ton of moving parts in the SkillBridge application process, and you need to give yourself enough time to navigate them all.
First of all, there’s the paperwork. You’ll need to get approval from your chain of command, which can take a while depending on how busy they are or how much they know about SkillBridge. You’ll also need to work with your career counsellor or career office to review and refine your application, which can take some back-and-forth. And don’t forget about all the other forms and documents you’ll need to submit earlier than your buddies who aren’t doing SkillBridge, because most commands require all your separation paperwork to be complete prior to departing on SkillBridge.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. You also need to find a civilian employer in the SkillBridge network that aligns with your career goals and interests, and apply through their system. This can take a while, especially if you’re not sure what you want to do or how to market yourself effectively. And even if you do find a match, there’s no guarantee that they’ll accept you, so you may need to apply to multiple partners and be flexible about your preferences.
All of these steps take time and effort, so don’t procrastinate. Start your SkillBridge application as early as possible, ideally 12 months before your separation date. This will give you plenty of wiggle room to handle any hiccups, delays, or surprises that may arise along the way. Plus, it shows your dedication and professionalism to your chain of command and civilian employers, which can only help your chances of success.
SkillBridge is the First Step in a Three-part Journey
Remember, SkillBridge is just the first step in a three-part journey toward a successful transition to civilian life. After you complete SkillBridge, you’ll separate from active duty and should look at your GI Bill for a college program that aligns with your career goals and interests. Meanwhile, you’ll keep working part-time with your SkillBridge employer, building on the relationship you’ve created and gaining valuable experience and references. And if you need more time in school, or if your GI Bill runs out, supplement with Veteran Readiness and Education (VR&E) benefits, which can provide additional support and resources for your career development. The key is to see these benefits as steps in a larger journey, not as individual or disconnected benefits.
Plan ahead. Stay focused. Build on your skills, not your weaknesses. Connect with your network of buddies who have made the transition already. You can make a smooth and successful transition to civilian life and achieve your career aspirations. Don’t think about SkillBridge as a one-time program; think about it as the first step in a lifelong journey of learning, growth, and achievement.
Where is the SkillBridge Easy Button?
Flex Air is a Veteran-Owned flight school with locations in San Diego (mostly Marines & Navy) and Kansas (Mostly Army). They train people with zero experience to be commercial airline pilots. They also do rotary transitions for helicopter pilots.
Flex Air Flight School gets a lot of interest from SkillBridgers, as a result, we’ve spent a lot of effort helping folks manage the paperwork and chain of command, and they’re very good at it. So, if you have any interest in becoming a commercial pilot, you should fill out our interest form.
They’ll ask you lots of questions like EAS Date, service branch, etc., so they can customise the instructions on EXACTLY what YOU need to do, to get yourself across the line and into SkillBridge (even if it is not with Flex Air).
We think becoming a commercial airline pilot is the surest path to a six-figure salary. (Unless you are in Information Technology (IT) but seriously wouldn’t you prefer a better view from the office?) It’s also a great choice for veterans who don’t know what to do with their military-specific skills, or who aren’t interested in spending long years in a college classroom environment.
The Flex Air SkillBridge internship provides mentorship and coaching on building a career in aviation, but you will spend most of your SkillBridge time getting your Private Pilot License (PPL). This is a great deal because GI Bill and VR&E will not pay for a private pilot’s license, but they will pay for flight training after that, so if you can get your PPL during SkillBridge, you have a full salary and housing allowance, then after EAS you can start using your GI Bill. Our program also emphasises flexibility. They will take SkillBridge trainees with any experience and certification beyond PPL up to and including fully qualified flight instructors (CFI).
Learn more about Flex Air and get information about how you can get approved for SkillBridge Flight School or whatever program is best for you.