Each year, over 200,000 service members’ shift from active military service to civilian life. The Department of Defense (DoD) SkillBridge program gives military members a jump-start in that transition.
In January, Northrop Grumman solidified a partnership with the DoD to offer transitioning service members internship opportunities via SkillBridge. This program enables those separating or retiring from military service to start the process earlier to begin making the transition while still receiving full active duty pay and benefits.
Recently, SkillBridge participant Vincent and his manager, John, spoke to Northrop Grumman employee, Greg about their experiences with the program and shared insights valuable to anyone looking to make a similar transition or to learn more about the jump from a day-to-day life in the military.
Greg: Could you tell me a little about yourselves and your backgrounds?
John: I grew up in Indiana and I have a beautiful six-year old daughter. When I graduated high school, I decided to join the Air Force. I was looking for adventure, tired of school and wanted a change of scenery. I wanted to see the world and get my education paid for in the process. Who knew at the time that I would make it a career and retire in 2013? After retirement, I worked for Spectrum as a contractor for a few months until I heard about an opportunity with Northrop Grumman and in February 2014 I was hired on as a field engineer for the U-2 program. I deployed for two and a half years to an overseas location and then came back and after some time hired for my current program manager role here at McClellan Air Force Base in 2017.
Greg: How would you describe your experience in the Military?
Vincent: I have been in the Air Force for seven years. I joined in August of 2013 and have been in avionics for the Global Hawk program the entire time. My experienceprovided me with a great background as an Avionics Craftsman. I have completed all training necessary to achieve my 7-level in the Air Force. I specifically worked on the flight line and maintained the equipment on a day-to-day basis, focusing on the major systems. Additionally, I was able to take advantage of the Air Force Cool Program and obtain my Avionics FCC Licenses, Electronics Systems, and have even started the Air Frame and Power plant program.
Greg: Do you feel the DoD SkillBridge Program helps ease the transition from the military?
Vincent: Absolutely! The decision to participate in the program has made a huge difference. I will complete the program soon, start my terminal leave, and everything is already figured out. This has made it so much easier to get connected with Northrop Grumman, work with the team, and transition without missing a beat.
Greg: Where do you feel your experience level and knowledge base was coming into the program?
Vincent: I felt very comfortable and familiar with a lot of things. Due to the scope of the Air Force maintenance responsibilities, I was really a “jack of all trades” in my role. Also, when I started with Northrop Grumman, I did not realize one advantage I have is knowing all of the background information specific to the Air Force, like the forms, procedures and policy. This has made it easy for me to understand exactly what the Air Force requires from us at Northrop Grumman.
Greg: John, have you felt that Vincent’s military skillset was commensurate with his Northrop Grumman duties and responsibilities?
John: Yes. Our main focus was to evaluate his initial skillset, identify training opportunities, and enhance his skills preparing him for a full-time role. Vincent came to us with about 75% of what he needed for the role. It was really a “plug and play” scenario. This program gave us the opportunity to hone in on particular areas and provide upskill training necessary for the full-time opportunities we have available. This was such a big advantage, because he was still being paid by the Air Force and we were able to train him at no cost.
Greg: Do you feel like there’s additional knowledge and training gained from participating in SkillBridge?
Vincent: At Northrop Grumman, I have been able to really hone in on a small portion of what I was working on with the Air Force. This has given me the ability to learn and gain a great deal of information and become specialized on one system. Having the opportunity to work with a team at Northrop Grumman, learning from their extensive knowledge base, and really gaining a much greater specialized level of understanding has been invaluable. It is kind of funny, because before I stared this role, if there was an in-depth issue, I would contact Northrop Grumman to send in their Field Service Representative (FSR) to help with it and now I am going to be that person.
Greg: Does the SkillBridge program help Northrop Grumman as much as it helps transitioning military members?
John: This program is a “win-win”. It provides Northrop Grumman the ability to access the military member’s skillset and identify training to enhance their skills so they can meet the business needs prior to their separation from the service. It also allows us to develop a steady pipeline of military talent. Since we know when the person is getting out, we can position ourselves to transition them onto the team.
Greg: What advice do you have for other Northrop Grumman managers who are interested in participating in this program?
John: Bottom line, take advantage of this program! Talk to your peers and leadership about the program and get connected with Greg. You [Greg] made this very easy because you did all the leg work with the Air Force to get Vincent onboard in SkillBridge. When we were ready to hire him, we connected with Madelyn, from Talent Acquisition, who took it and ran with it. This was a very easy process. As a transitioning service member myself, I really appreciate that our program set the expectations up front by explaining the need to identify an opportunity for these individuals upon completion of their internship. Transitioning out of the military is a very difficult thing to do and we have the ability to make it less stressful and more enjoyable.
Greg: Thank you Vincent, it has been a pleasure talking with you today and I would like to officially welcome you to the Northrop Grumman family! And John, thank you for sitting down with me today, and for your support of the program.
One of the most challenging times a service member faces is when they exit the service. They may have never worked in a corporate environment or applied for a position outside of the military. They can be thrown into a new and somewhat unnerving world when they leave the service – one through which SkillBridge can be a valuable guide.