Imagine getting paid by the military to spend your last months of active duty service training with a civilian employer who is eager to hire you when you separate or retire. There are two programs that provide such an opportunity.
Army Career Skills Program
The nation’s largest service branch launched the Army Career Skills Program (CSP) in January 2013 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. Sixteen soldiers trained for high-paying, in-demand jobs in the pipe trades through the United Association Veterans in Piping program.
Since then more than 40,500 soldiers have completed one of 225 CSP programs at 31 installations with more than 4,000 employer partners. Participating employers have hired 93% of the soldiers they trained.
The program is not just good for soldiers, it’s good for taxpayers too. In Fiscal Year 2011, the Army paid $515 million in unemployment insurance (the services must reimburse states what they pay to transitioning service members who collect unemployment). In the first three quarters of FY 2023, the Army paid $41 million in unemployment, said William McMillian, a retired soldier and Transition Services Manager at Fort Liberty in North Carolina, formerly known as Fort Bragg.
“That’s how effective these programs have been,” McMillian said.
Fort Liberty currently offers 20 hands-on training programs on or near the base in a variety of occupations from BMW technician, production technician or aviation technician to carpentry, truck driving, ranching, sales, IT, retail management and more. There are also more than 200 internships available.
“Here’s an opportunity while you’re still being paid by the military to get the training for your next job,” McMillian said.
Here’s what soldiers need to be eligible for CSP:
- Soldier must be within 180 days of their separation/retirement date
- Soldier must have completed TAP Career Readiness Standards requirements
- Soldier must have commander approval
- Programs may have additional requirements
Visit the Army’s Career Skills Program website for a list of programs and locations, then visit your installation TAP office for assistance.
The US Department of Defense also offers a training program that allows service members from all branches to train during their last 180 days of active duty service. The program includes internships and apprenticeships and, like the Army CSP, the training is conducted by civilian employers in a variety of occupations. And they’re not all in the skilled trades.
Sultan Camp, a 20-year Navy veteran and director of the Hampton Roads Veterans Employment Centers, works with employers in the Hampton Roads region of Virginia. Many offer SkillBridge programs.
“So the majority of positions, believe it or not, are not skilled trades,” Camp said. “A lot of them are exempt-level salaried (positions), supply chain, project manager—I even had a few folks go into marketing and marketing roles. Real estate is another big one that I see for folks that have an interest in becoming a Realtor®. There are phenomenal programs out there across the spectrum.”
Any rank may apply for the SkillBridge program. Active duty members of the Guard and Reserve are also eligible, although each service may implement its own eligibility rules and guidelines.
Here are the eligibility requirements for the DOD SkillBridge Program:
- Must have 180 days of service or fewer remaining prior to your date of discharge and have at least 180 continuous days of active service.
- Must obtain approval from your unit commander.
- Must agree that participation in SkillBridge can be terminated at any time by the service if mission requirements dictate.
Services and/or commands may require that all mandatory components of TAP be completed before participating in SkillBridge.
For information about the DOD SkillBridge Program, contact your installation SkillBridge point of contact in the transition assistance office, education office or other installation support office. You can also find valuable information at the DOD SkillBridge website.