Trouble Navigating SkillBridge? 50Strong Is Here to Help

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Lt. Cmdr. Karen Eifert, who is participating in a health systems specialist (HSS) internship at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth (NMCP) through the Department of Defense Skillbridge Program, meets with Valerie Cosnotti, head of the Business Optimization Department at NMCP, to discuss a data project that will fit an aspect of the HSS position. (U.S. Navy/Rebecca A. Perron)

SkillBridge is one of the most groundbreaking programs the U.S. military ever introduced to help transition service members into civilian life. It allows veterans looking to separate from the military to work in training opportunities, internships and apprenticeships during the last 180 days of their enlistment while still receiving full pay and benefits.

The only problem is that navigating SkillBridge to browse those opportunities is a notoriously difficult task. 50Strong was founded to help bridge the gap between the way the military works and the way the civilian world works, and it starts with an internship tool. Simply click here and scroll down to the middle of the page to start browsing.

50Strong was founded by Kandi Tillman, a former corporate executive whose resume boasts some pretty impressive names, like Oracle, Proctor & Gamble and Standard & Poor. It’s safe to say she knows something about getting a job in the civilian world. When she met her now-husband, Kevin Tillman, he was a veteran struggling to get what he calls "a regular job."

Kandi helped her husband with every aspect of his job search, from resume writing to employer referrals. Eventually, he landed a job at Lockheed Martin. The pair eventually founded 50Strong with the mission of smoothing out the process for any and all veterans.

Their idea is that military norms to which veterans are accustomed often do not make the jump into the ways civilian companies look for and hire talent. 50Strong has developed a twofold approach to facilitating the process of helping veterans understand the way their new world works.

For those looking to separate from the military sooner rather than later, 50Strong brings its industry partners to events on military installations across the United States looking for talent in certain career fields. These include big-name organizations such as the Mayo Clinic, Amazon and General Dynamics. They hold networking sessions and discussions about working in various sectors and how the civilian onboarding process actually works.

For those who are interested in finding a SkillBridge program for their last six months in the military, they’ve developed the SkillBridge Connect tool. It lists internship opportunities in alphabetical order, in a forever-scrolling widget on their website.

While there’s nothing really wrong with the way service members can browse SkillBridge opportunities on the SkillBridge website, the DoD site lists the internships by location and limits the showings to 10 listings per page. When you’re browsing through more than a thousand programs, it can get pretty cumbersome.

Scrolling through all the opportunities on the same page makes it easier than ever to find a potential program. Once you find it on the SkillBridge Connect tool, you easily can search for it in the DoD SkillBridge Locations page.

For example, scrolling through 50Strong’s widget, one can find the Operation Socrates K-12 teaching internship in Syracuse, New York. There’s no direct link through the widget but jumping over to the DoD page, you can just search for “Syracuse” and the Operation Socrates link pops right up.

Easy.

50Strong isn’t just out to help service members transition into civilian life (though that’s the company’s main focus). It also offers support to military-connected students, military spouses, civilian employers, and colleges and universities looking to attract veterans into their programs and organizations.

For a list of 50Strong events and programs, visit the company’s website and scroll down to the bottom of the page to see the latest updates. Using the 50Strong SkillBridge Connect tool is just as easy. Just browse through the opportunities on the 50Strong tool, then navigate over to SkillBridge Locations and search for it to learn more.

-- Blake Stilwell can be reached at blake.stilwell@military.com. He can also be found on Twitter @blakestilwell or on Facebook.

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