DOD Internship Program Helps Transition Veterans to Private Sector
At the end of January, Lt. Col. Jian Guan will wrap-up her first-ever internship in the private sector at Maryland-based Emergent BioSolutions Inc. As the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command's former medical liaison officer to the Pentagon, Guan – who is set to retire soon – leveraged her 20 years of military service in support of the company's Defense Affairs team.
Guan's experience highlights the attempts of the nearly 200,000 Service Members who transition into the global professional workforce on an annual basis. As that number has risen in recent years, so too have efforts by the U.S. Department of Defense to facilitate that transition.
"No matter our military experience or classification, what we veterans bring with us is our focus," said Guan, who is also an accomplished medicinal chemist. "We are always mission-ready."
One example of the federal government's commitment to this effort is the DOD's SkillBridge program, which serves as an opportunity for Service Members to gain valuable civilian work experience through specific industry training. While Guan found her internship with Emergent via local networking, her efforts serve as a serendipitous prelude of sorts to the company's upcoming partnership announcement with the DOD. The SkillBridge internship program will debut at Emergent later this year at several of the company's U.S.-based locations.
In 2022, a survey launched by one of Emergent's employee resource groups found that 71% of professional management personnel believe military experience is an asset in job applicants. Feedback from this survey was a key driver in the company's decision to partner with SkillBridge. The program itself is supported financially by the federal government, and offers Service Members up to six months of training and work experience in the civilian sector, help in transitioning their skills and guidance in starting a new career.
"These are not interns coming straight from college, these are individuals with a lot of life experience," said Jason Cauley, Guan's supervisor and the director of Defense Affairs at Emergent. "Many of them have spent their careers in the military, and so they are going to bring outside ideas and new perspectives that are directly related to our industry, especially important given Emergent supports the DoD and federal government."
Based on their experience and knowledge, transitioning military members could be placed across professional areas such as program management, supply chain operations, quality control, manufacturing, protective services, operational excellence, human resources and more.
"This has been a fantastic experience," Guan said of her time at Emergent. "I have been able to gain a glimpse of how a multi-functional team works with a deep dive in defense medical countermeasure strategies."
According to the DOD, SkillBridge is an excellent option for installation and unit commanders who have Service Members about to be discharged from active duty, as the program can help bridge the gap between end-of-service requirements and the beginning of their civilian careers. Service Members can be granted up to 180 days of permissive duty to focus solely on training full-time with approved industry partners following written approval from the unit commander.
"SkillBridge is going to be a great resource for our people managers by offering up potential candidates you may otherwise have missed," said Cauley. "These individuals are not just qualified for the job, but will be coming to us with great leadership skills – a tremendous asset to Emergent, certainly."
For more information about the SkillBridge program, please click here.