New Year, New Career?
Every year an estimated 200,000 military members rejoin the civilian workforce, either by retiring or separating from uniformed service. The Department of Defense estimates there were over 500 members who separated from just Ellsworth Air Force Base in fiscal year 2019. While this influx of talent into our local community is invaluable, the transition to civilian life can be incredibly difficult for service members. As we look at a new year, many of our Airmen and Soldiers may consider leaving the service, we collected resources to help make the transition easier.
One of the biggest things members should remember is that the military is more than a job. The military provides a career, but also healthcare, education, family support and more. Transitioning is more than just a change in careers—it’s an entire lifestyle shift. This reason alone is why many service members have trouble rejoining the civilian workforce: the immediate adjustment in benefits and community is tough if you aren’t prepared.
With that in mind, anyone thinking of leaving the service should plan ahead. While it’s never too soon to plan for a transition, the most common recommendation is to plan at least a year in advance of any career change. This includes finances, education and training, and budgeting for any moving or licensing requirements. Keep in mind that it can take a while to find a job in the civilian sector, especially if you’re entering a career different from what your military job is. Here’s a good list of things to consider as you leave; there are also good resources at the Airman & Family Readiness Center on base.
Once you’ve decided to retire or separate, there are many benefits and resources available to help. The DoD has mandated programs like the Transition Assistance Program for any member who has served over 180 days, but there are others available too.
Perhaps one of the biggest programs to come out recently is the DoD Skillbridge program, also known as the Career Skills Program. Skillbridge allows transitioning members to intern at a civilian company of their choice for up to six months prior to separating, if their unit manning and mission can support. It’s a great opportunity to network and get hands-on experience in a new career. Members can also elect to go to school with the Skillbridge program, which is a great way to jumpstart their education.
Another great resource available here locally is the Rapid City chapter of Bunker Labs. The non-profit is a national network of veterans and military spouses who aim to help veterans and military-connected entrepreneurs start their own businesses. It’s the perfect combination of national resources and local support for service members who want to become business owners.
No matter your reason for choosing a new career, there are many resources and opportunities available to help ease the transition. We hope Airmen choose to make the Black Hills their home long term, but our community is here to support you regardless. Anyone interested in transition programs should contact the Airmen Family & Readiness Center on base to get started. The Ellsworth Education & Training office is also a great resource for those looking to explore their education opportunities.