Skillbridge: The Veteran Internship Program that brought us Steve Jones

This post was written by Stephen Jones, the GSF Director of Partner Relations

A year ago, this week, I was attentively listening to my instructor guiding me through to rituals of the Department of Defense (DoD) mandated Transition Assistance Program, or TAP. I felt prepared for my transition from the military because I began planning my departure almost two years in advance. Beyond the hours of Veteran Affairs (VA) benefit briefings, the was one slide that caught my attention. Buried in the myriad of resources available to transitioning veterans, there was a program called DoD SkillBridge.

The DoD SkillBridge initiative promotes the civilian job training authority available for transitioning military Service members. Service members meeting certain qualifications can participate in civilian job and employment training, including apprenticeships and internships. DoD SkillBridge training opportunities are available for transitioning Service members. A Service member must have completed at least 180 days on active duty and be expected to be discharged or released from active duty within 180 days of starting their job training. Moreover, Service members must receive approval to participate, and the training opportunity must meet certain conditions.

I realized that getting an internship is going to be problematic due to the fact I was not located in a fleet concentration area. Additionally, when I asked the counselors at Fleet and Family for help, they admitted to knowing very little about the program. I knew I wanted an internship but finding the opportunity was going to be of my own creating. A simple Google search brought me to the DoD SkillBridge website, and from there I found the Navy Administrative Message (NAVADMIN) that governs the program for the Navy.

My biggest take away from the instruction was that the program is adaptable to the service member’s situation. Meaning, the internship agreement is between the service member, the command of the service member, and the company providing the internship.

Bottom line: this is a local agreement without undue amounts of bureaucratic hurdles that ultimately block or delay service members from receiving benefits.

With a clear understanding of the guiding instructions, I approached the GSF about providing me an internship. The timing was perfect–they were in the market for a Director of Partner Relations, and I felt that the training that I would receive within a small business that cared about me would be great for my professional development.

The Foundation agreed to provide the opportunity and I cleared my participation with my chain of command to allow 116 days of training provided by the GSF while I was still on active duty. Since I was the first participant in the program within my region, I also included my local Fleet and Family Center so they could learn about my experiences and then transfer the knowledge gained from my experience to other service members in the future.

As an intern, I was put to work right away recruiting new corporate partners and learning the day-to-day struggles and rewards of working in a small business. The learning curve was steep, despite my years of education and military experience. Working for a small company is rewarding, but not for everyone. Team work is essential and every member of the organization plays an integral part–otherwise, we don’t eat. Even though you always hear people say that they want to own their own business, very few know what it takes to survive as an entrepreneur, especially immediately after military service. This type of work is not for everyone!

Thanks to the SkillBridge program and the GSF, I was given the opportunity to get a small glimpse into the dedication it takes to run a small business.

At the conclusion of my 116 days of extreme on-the-job training, I met their stringent standards and was given an offer to join the Foundation as the new Director of Partner Relations. My hard work paid off and I ended up in a position that I never dreamed of having when I began TAP.

I have shared my story with many people over the last few months, one of whom is CDR Charles Neu, a Navy Supply Officer. He was one of the first individuals that I shared my adventure with a year ago, and what do you know–CDR Neu is now an intern with the GSF, preparing his own lessons learned and passing the knowledge forward. He’s doing a great job, and he’s even documenting what he’s doing and learning in a blog series called “Checking in with Chuck!”

See stay posted to the GSF Blog, and see how Chuck is doing with Skillbridge!

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