Tyndall AFB launches community partnerships: SkillBridge Program

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TYNDALL AFB, Fla. (WMBB) — Earlier this summer, Tyndall Air Force Base announced the success of their community partnerships program, identifying five unique partnerships that act as a win-win for both the base and the surrounding community.

One of those partnerships is with CareerSource Gulf Coast, giving veterans new opportunities after the military and community businesses skilled workers at their establishments through the Department of Defense SkillBridge program. They’re also working with Gulf Coast State College on this partnership.

The branch-wide program has been at Tyndall since 2017 and gives servicemembers on their way out a chance to try something new while still receiving a military paycheck.

“What it does is it allows members to intern, OJT, apprenticeship or job skills training with a company,” said Dawn Matera, the SkillBridge program manager at Tyndall AFB.

Tyndall’s Education and Training Chief, Stephen Mihal, said the program has had a good response from service members who have participated. 

“This provides you up to 180 days for transition and learn a new skill-set and work with an employer for potential employment with the industry or company,” Mihal said.

One of those veterans who has participated in the program is retired Master Sergeant Jason Atchley, who served in the Air Force for 24 years before retiring from Tyndall AFB earlier this year. He said it’s not easy figuring out life and a career after the military.

“It’s a big transition, now you’re starting over again,” Atchley said. “That’s the biggest thing, it’s always about starting over but it’s just what you make of it.”

He said SkillBridge helped him bridge the gap; For him, a new opportunity came with Harley-Davidson in Panama City Beach.

“I ride motorcycles, I like them and I wanted to learn more about them,” he said. “This was just an easier transition for me, being that my career-field was mechanical to a certain extent already.”

He was able to intern with Harley-Davidson starting in January and had a new job with them by the time he left the service. His boss, Keith Decker, said they gained a strong and skilled team-member. 

“We’re serious about our work,” Decker said. “He’s a real fit for this company.”

Dozens of others have had similar experiences with the SkillBridge program; Now, Tyndall Air Force Base has partnered with CareerSource Gulf Coast to get more local companies involved.

“We have a pool of workers through Tyndall Air Force Base, if we can help retain that skill and that talent here it really benefits our employers here which benefits our overall economy,” said Maria Goodwin, the Workforce Services Director at CSGC. 

Through the program and the new partnership with CSGC, it gives local businesses the chance to have skilled veterans onboard, and those veterans an easier transition to every-day civilian life.

“You get a program set up for how you’re going to do the internship and you really just go from there,” Atchley said. “It’s really that easy.”

Businesses interested in becoming an internship partner with CareerSource Gulf Coast can find a link to the application here, or call CSGC at (850) 913-3285.

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