As I was getting close to the end of my 21-year Navy career, I wasn't sure what my next move could or should be. Luckily, I heard about DoD Skillbridge and was accepted into an intern program with SkillMil. This internship allows me to continue being paid my full-time active duty pay and benefits while gaining the knowledge, skills, and connection I need to be successful in my next profession.
My Journey to SkillBridge
In May 2020, I began searching for a company to partner with for the SkillBridge program. My notional retirement date was set for March 2022 and I wanted to ensure I had room for error and enough time to recover. I reached out to the CEO and was able to sell him on the idea of having me as an intern. I started the application process for the company. We waited for months with no word from the SkillBridge Program.
It turned out that there was more than one application that must be submitted for a company to be considered as a SkillBridge partner. As of writing this article (December 9th, 2021), none of the companies I helped get started have been approved by the DoD Skillbridge administration.
Where do I find authorized SkillBridge Partners?
The months were passing by and I had yet to coordinate with an authorized SkillBridge partner. I was nearing 180 days from retirement and I had checked the SkillBridge Locator to see if there were any companies I would be interested in interning with.
There weren't any organizations in my area that grabbed my attention immediately. I did notice several aerospace companies in the Oklahoma City area that matched my previous experience but I wasn't sure if they would be a good fit for my future plans. I submitted an application to Boeing in Oklahoma City, no response. I reached out to my friends who worked at Boeing locally to see if any of them knew the Boeing SkillBridge manager. I heard back from all of them over the weekend and one was able to track down the coordinator. I was excited to have a real lead. I emailed the coordinator right away and received an immediate response. I hopped on the phone with him, he gave me the rundown of the Boeing SkillBridge Program and the link to apply. It turned out the link on the SkillBridge website was not the link Boeing used to track SkillBridge applicants. Rather, Boeing had a link on the Boeing website specifically for SkillBridge applicants. I applied immediately.
Time was running out!
A few more weeks went by without any word from Boeing. I was getting concerned. The SkillBridge program ran a few options including 180 days, 150 days, 120 days, and 90 days. With my 90-day mark fast approaching, I was desperate to find a partner I could intern for.
I had been hosting the Nonprofit Architect for two years. I was hoping to find a partnership capable of providing me with the skills I needed to increase my small business knowledge, marketing, and sales skills. Although I had worked in the aerospace industry for the past 21 years, I was ready to try something completely different. Fortunately, through a few connections, I was granted the opportunity to host the inaugural 2021 Veteran Podcast Awards.
What are the Veteran Podcast Awards?
The VPA (Veteran Podcast Awards) were the brainchild of Shane Cunningham, host of the Broken Jarhead Podcast. He wanted to ensure there were podcast awards dedicated to veterans. Shane also ensured that October 5th was designated National Military Podcast Day. On October 5th, 2021, I hosted the first annual Veteran Podcast Awards. There were a dozen categories, over 40 registered shows, and over 10,000 votes cast for their favorite show. The 2021 Military Podcast of the year was won by Diapers and Deployments, hosted by Michael Hinkle and Serena Moyer.
Finally, a SkillBridge Partner Emerged!
Michael Hinkle reached out to me to get some of the details from behind the scenes. He was putting together an email to update their following on their recent accolades. We set up a time to chat and I provided the necessary information. Michael inquired about my background and plans for the future. Even though I added Diapers and Deployment to the Veteran Podcast Network, we hadn't actually spoken. I mentioned my time in the Navy was coming to a close and that I was searching for a SkillBridge partner.
Michael was really excited! It turned out that his company, SkillMil, was an authorized SkillBridge partner and they were actively searching for an intern. I applied immediately.
We set up a short interview and Michael extended me an official offer to become their intern through the SkillBridge program.
This was the break I needed
I was relieved to receive a legitimate offer from a company focusing on the areas I wanted to improve on. SkillMil was ready for me to join their team but I still needed the Navy to approve the internship. I turned to NAVADMIN 222/15 to ensure I met the eligibility requirements.
To participate in the DoD SkillBridge employment skills training program, Sailors must:
a. Have completed at least 180 days on active duty and are expected to be discharged from active duty with an Honorable discharge, including General discharge(under Honorable conditions), within 180 days of the date of commencement of participation in such program;
b. Be separating from the Navy and have sufficient time remaining under their contract to complete the program prior to established separation date. The intent of the program is for Sailors to complete the training while they are still on active duty. If a program extendspast enlistment and is being conducted off-base, approval may be granted on a case by case basis;
c. Have successfully passed their most recent physical fitness assessment;
d. Be recommended for advancement or promotion and retention on most recent evaluation or fitness report;
e. Have completed their Transition Goals, Plans and Success requirements;
f. Have attended an ethics brief or completed a DoD approved ethics training presentation within the last 12 months from the start date of the skills training program; and
g. Have not previously completed, currently participating in, or had participation terminated from an employment skills training program.
I had met all the requirements sans completing ethics training in the prior 12 months. I quickly completed the annual online ethics training and submitted my package. The package included proof of meeting the above eligibility requirements, proof that SkillMil was an approved SkillBridge program (I printed the page confirming this on the SkillBridge Website), proof that SkillMil accepted me as an intern, and routed this through my chain of command.
With an approved package I began my internship with SkillMil.
It was a challenge to get signed up for SkillBridge but it was well worth the effort. If SkillBridge is a program you are considering starting early with the following steps:
1. Start Early
It took months to find a program partner that was already approved, apply for the position, and complete the process. Boeing didn't let me know I was not approved until two weeks after starting with SkillMil.
2. Ensure Your Eligibility
Each service has its own requirements for the SkillBridge Program. Find out what they are and complete them well in advance. Ensure your leadership knows your intentions. They may have other paperwork as part of the transition process. Mine was completed as part of my retirement paperwork but your situation might be different.
3. Plan Your Transition
SkillBridge may or may not be part of your vision. Whatever you decide to do, be sure to fill out a profile at SkillMil.com. SkillMil offers free profiles for veterans and transitioning service members as well as resume tools that can create your resume from your military skill and history using your VMET.
SkillMil is an authorized SkillBridge partner.
Podcast Guru | Guest Blogger
Marketing | SkillMil
Oklahoma City, OK, USA
Travis joined us after completing 21 years of naval service. He currently hosts the Nonprofit Architect Podcast.