Transitioning Service Members Can Receive Job Training While on Active Duty with SkillBridge

Optum employee Bobby Padilla is a UnitedHealth Group Military Internship Program Alum and Air Force Veteran.

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In the next several years, more than a million U.S. service members will transition into the civilian workforce. Finding a job that takes advantage of your transferable skills, fits your financial needs and offers you a fulfilling career path can be difficult. The DoD SkillBridge program can help. 

What Is the SkillBridge Program?

The DoD SkillBridge program connects transitioning service members to civilian businesses and companies that offer training or internships and a high probability of employment. These services are provided at little or no cost to the service member. Participation in the program is considered official duty, and troops are authorized to participate in the program during regular working hours.

What Kind of Job Opportunities Are Available Through the SkillBridge Program?

Companies with training opportunities are vetted by the Defense Department and can be found on the SkillBridge web portal. One we like is UnitedHealth Group's Military Internship Program (MIP). 

MIP is a partnership between UnitedHealth Group and the DoD SkillBridge Program that offers career skills training and workforce reintegration to transitioning active-duty service members across all branches of the U.S. military. To help support those who serve or have served and their families, UnitedHealth Group provides access to career opportunities, programs and partnerships for transitioning service members. Managers and recruiters will work with the interns to discuss career plans and interests.

The MIP was a perfect resource for Bobby Padilla, who served in the Air Force from 1993 to 2019. MIP provided a bridge between his military service and his new role as a business analyst in the patient experience department at Optum; he started in September.

In November 2018, Padilla's mother passed away from brain cancer. His experience helping her navigate the health care system prompted the then-senior master sergeant to shift his focus and find an outlet where he could continue to help others.

"When I helped my mother go through the health care system, I saw that it was hard to navigate, especially once she was going through her treatments," Padilla said. "That's what helped me to find my calling. Now, I'm helping patients who are having similar difficulties, identifying their problems and offering them ways to get around those challenges."

One of MIP's primary goals is to transfer knowledge to interns through hands-on experience and job shadowing opportunities with UnitedHealth Group team members.

There are currently four main tracks for interns to pursue:

Business & Finance, which includes process improvement, financial strategic planning, and facilities management.

Clinical Operations, which includes partnerships with provider and clinic teams, quality- and risk-associated process improvement, and accreditation program management.

Customer Service, which includes administrative and executive support, customer engagement and project management.

Information Technology, which includes data analysis and application and systems design.

Eddie Dunn, a retired Army master sergeant who oversees the program, is the driving force behind MIP. "When you're coming out of the military, you're really learning how to go from one identity to another," Dunn said. "We're taught to be selfless, to be courageous, and to step in the line of fire if needed. It's important for service members to find like-minded individuals and values when moving to the next phase of their lives."

Padilla said the program hits all those marks and more. "When I first started this journey, I had a lot of anxiety -- fear of the unknown," he said. "But the program was great; it allowed me to transition to a place that aligns so much with our core values within the military."

What Are the Eligibility Requirements for the SkillBridge Program?

The SkillBridge framework is based on two driving principles:

  1. The military services will allow eligible service members to participate in industry training instead of performing military duties during the closing months of their careers. 
  2. Industry training providers will offer training at little or no cost to eligible service members on or near the installations where they are stationed for the closing months of their military careers.

The general eligibility requirements for SkillBridge are:

  1. The service member must have completed at least 180 continuous days on active duty in the armed forces and is expected to be discharged or released from active duty within 180 days of starting the training opportunity.
  2. The training must offer the service member a high probability of employment.
  3. The training must be provided to the service member at little or no cost.
  4. The approval authority to participate in a training opportunity is the first field-grade commander in the service member's chain of command. The approval authority will put in place personnel accountability procedures as part of the condition of approval consistent with DoD and Military Department policies.
  5. The approval authority may terminate the service member's participation in a training opportunity based on mission requirements, whereupon the service member must report to their unit of assignment.
  6. Service members must receive approval from their commanding officer to participate in the program.

Applying for the Skillbridge Program

Service members interested in applying for the Skillbridge program should follow the following guidelines.

  1.  Visit your installation’s transition office. There is usually a Skillbridge program manager assigned to the base Transition or Education Office who can discuss training and development opportunities. If you are deployed or in a remote location, use the Contact Us request form on the Skillbridge website. You will then receive assistance from your specific service branch.
  2. Obtain written approval from your unit commander to participate in the Skillbridge program. As always, your ability to participate in training is second to mission requirements, and your approval authority may be terminated by your command.
  3. Each service branch has differing requirements for application. Check the Skillbridge website for specific instructions.

Ready to get started? Learn more about the DoD SkillBridge program and  UnitedHealth Group's Military Internship Program today.

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