WPAFB programs prepare separating service members for new pursuits

The Education and Training Section at WRight-Patterson Air Force Base offers “Accessing Higher Education” workshops once a month, except November. Each workshop runs two days from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (Metro News Service photo)

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The Education and Training Section at WRight-Patterson Air Force Base offers “Accessing Higher Education” workshops once a month, except November. Each workshop runs two days from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (Metro News Service photo)

Service members beginning the transition to civilian life may be daunted by the question, “What’s next?” In this new phase of life, they may choose to pursue higher education, a career in their field of study or even a new career outside of their current expertise.

The first step in creating a vision for the future is to visit to the Education and Training Section at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Education Services offers free programs to help make each service member’s goals become reality.

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Two of these programs are “Accessing Higher Education,” a two-day workshop for creating an education plan, and “SkillBridge,” a program that allows participants to train for civilian jobs up to 180 days prior to separation.

“Accessing Higher Education”

The Education and Training Section offers “Accessing Higher Education” workshops once a month, except November. Each workshop runs two days from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

“It’s not a strenuous two days. It is completely an individualized counseling session where we help step you through the process,” said Yolanda Sapp, Education Services specialist. “You get the opportunity to take two days for yourself away from your workplace to plan and explore deeper than you would if you tried to figure it out on your own.”

The workshop prepares future students for all facets of college education, including the realities of college life, how to obtain credit for military training and experience, researching schools and completing an application.

“We help them evaluate personal needs and school factors and then we give them time to delve into school websites and look at their programs of interest,” said Sapp.

Workshop attendees are also informed about financial aid resources, such as the Post-9/11 and Montgomery GI Bills, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, federal and non-federal loans, grants, work-study programs and scholarships.

“For a lot of attendees, it’s been awhile since they have been in school. Things like the application process and timelines have changed,” said Sapp. “We want to make sure they’re aware of those things.”

After completing the workshop, individuals are equipped to complete an application package for an accredited institution and meet with an academic counselor at their school of choice.

Although these workshops are intended for service members, anyone with base access may attend.

“Accessing Higher Education” workshops will be offered the following dates this year:

• Aug. 26-27

• Sept. 23-24

• Oct. 28-29

• Dec. 2-3

SkillBridge

For service members interested in pursuing a civilian career after transitioning from the military, SkillBridge (formerly Career Skills Program) can assist in achieving those goals.

SkillBridge is a Department of Defense training program that bridges the gap between active-duty and civilian life for separating service members. The program gives participants the chance to train full time for an occupation in the civilian sector, 180 days or less prior to separation, while maintaining active-duty status. All ranks are eligible to apply for SkillBridge.

Before beginning the program, service members work with Education Services to determine what career path is the best fit for them. They are then able to identify a SkillBridge provider and a program that best meets their career goals.

“Dream big with the company you want to work for,” said Sapp. “I always ask, “Where do you want to work?” And that’s where you should start.”

Military personnel can search for an unpaid internship or apprenticeship at any location of their choice, despite where they are currently assigned, provided that it is approved by the DOD. Individuals can also work with DOD SkillBridge representatives to build a program that meets their needs.

“What you choose to pursue does not have to be anything related to your occupational Air Force specialty,” said Edie Redfern, Education Services chief. “This is about your life goal for after you leave the Air Force. You could have an entirely different career path in mind.”

The DOD requires that all active-duty personnel request written authorization and approval from their unit commander (pay grade O-4 or above) before entering into an agreement with an industry partner.

After service members apply online and obtain their commander’s approval through the Air Force Virtual Education Center, they can begin their internship or apprenticeship. During their 180 days or less in SkillBridge, members continue to receive military compensation and benefits while acquiring valuable on-the-job training.

After separation and completion of the program, there is a high probability that service members will be hired by the industry partners.

Education Services offers a SkillBridge workshop every second Tuesday of the month at 9 a.m. This counseling workshop is mandatory for service members interested in applying for the program. For additional information about SkillBridge, visit dodskillbridge.usalearning.gov.

To register or find more information about “Accessing Higher Education” or SkillBridge, contact the Education and Training office at wpafbeducation@us.af.mil or 937-904-4801.

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