Growth of SkillBridge Transition Program Paused After Overwhelming Popularity

A SkillBridge expo is held on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune
A SkillBridge expo is held at Marston Pavilion on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Feb. 28, 2023. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Antonino Mazzamuto)

The Pentagon has temporarily stopped accepting new civilian employers into the SkillBridge career transition program, an apprenticeship-style initiative where soon-to-separate service members train with companies, after the program grew far more popular than initially anticipated.

The program will undergo a "realignment," according to a statement from Defense Department spokesperson Jade Fulce.

Created in 2011, more than 50,000 service members had taken part in SkillBridge as of last year, with numbers growing annually. About 200,000 troops leave active duty each year.

Military commanders can authorize service members in the last 180 days of their active-duty military service to take part in a SkillBridge internship. Participation is considered official duty and authorized during normal working days and hours.

While the admission of new employers is on hold, transitioning troops can continue to apply for internship or training opportunities with existing SkillBridge organizations.

The self-described "already very successful and rapidly growing program" currently lists 3,312 authorized employers, from the likes of big aerospace firms such as Airbus to local outfits including Zuma's Rescue Ranch in Colorado.

The employers sign up with the Defense Department to offer the unpaid opportunities, which may take place in person, online or both. Troops continue to receive their military pay and benefits.

Fulce told by email that the "strategic pause" and realignment stemmed from a broader "organizational review" by the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness to better meet "readiness policy and program requirements." New employers will be accepted again after Aug. 15.

Following the reorganization, the program will be run in tandem by the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manpower and Reserve Affairs for oversight and the Defense Human Resources Agency for operations. It was previously handled by a single office under the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Readiness, officials said.

The DoD considers SkillBridge "an integral component" to its transition program, Fulce said.

The Pentagon administrators aren't alone in revisiting aspects of SkillBridge. In March, the Navy issued instructions limiting which of its members can take part in internships and when.

Generally, higher-ranking officers don't get as much leeway as lower-ranking enlisted sailors. Participation in SkillBridge is "not an entitlement," the Navy said, and shouldn't "impact readiness."

-- Amanda Miller can be reached at

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