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DOD program links Airmen to career opportunities

The Air Force Career Skills Program affords transitioning Airmen an opportunity during their final 180 days of their active-duty service to participate in apprenticeships, internships and job shadowing opportunities in the civilian workforce. (U.S. Air Force photo/Courtesy Photo)

The Air Force Career Skills Program affords transitioning Airmen an opportunity during their final 180 days of their active-duty service to participate in apprenticeships, internships and job shadowing opportunities in the civilian workforce. (U.S. Air Force photo/Courtesy Photo)

FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- After 7,300 days of serving in the military, Airmen find themselves reaching retirement, discovering new interests and choosing a place to make their forever home.

When being an Airman is all you have known for 20 years, adapting to and navigating civilian life as a retiree can be challenging, mysterious and confusing.

The Air Force Career Skills Program affords transitioning Airmen an opportunity during their final 180 days of their active-duty service to participate in apprenticeships, internships and job shadowing opportunities in the civilian workforce.

“The Air Force CSP benefits Airmen in so many ways,” said Master Sgt. Meredith Fekkers, 92nd Air Refueling Wing Law Office superintendent. “It allows Airmen to train, gain necessary experience, network with the local community and build a clientele base before officially retiring from active duty.”

More than 300,000 service members are expected to leave the military every year for the next few years. The CSP allows participating businesses and other training providers to gain early access to these highly skilled service members as prospective employees before they become veterans.

“The program is based on the fundamental concept of allowing eligible Airmen to receive industry training and experience instead of performing military duties during the final months of their military careers,” said Barry Miller, 92nd Force Support Squadron education counselor.

The CSP provides integration into a career field the member is interested in, not necessarily related to the member’s Air Force Specialty Code, with the hope they will gain employment at the end of the internship. It also allows the member to relocate to a city and state of their choosing to establish themselves and their families post service.

Regular Air Force and Air Force Reserve officer and enlisted Airmen must have completed 180 days on active duty and expect to be discharged from active duty within 180 days of starting the program.

Airmen begin the process by searching for a CSP provider and are encouraged to gather as much information about their preferred CSP to share with their respective commander before beginning the formal application process. After meeting with their commander, Airmen must receive counseling regarding the application process from their education office, which will provide information on maintaining accountability, adhering to military training requirements and sustaining military standards, Miller said.

“While the Air Force transition program has made great strides in building post-service career achievement in the academic arena, many veterans struggle to find the same level of accomplishment and productivity they experienced while serving in the military,” Miller said. “Difficulty in adjusting to the civilian work environment is often cited as a reason military members struggle with the civilian job market. Under CSP, Airmen not only have the opportunity to learn valuable technical skills, they also have the opportunity to refine protocol skills unique to the civilian work setting.”

Furthermore, the focus on training and experience is maximized since Airmen continue to receive military pay and benefits while performing in the CSP. While not guaranteed, participating employers may offer paid employment at the end of the training period.

“It feels like I am dreaming,” Fekkers said. “The program almost seems too good to be true. It’s so beneficial to my professional aspirations post service, without losing my current salary. It also provides the real estate agency the ability to train me and employ me without financial compensation for six months… it’s a win-win situation.”