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The Florida Chamber of Commerce and Veterans Florida Launch Florida SkillBridge Coalition

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. February 10, 2021 — The Florida Chamber of Commerce and Veterans Florida today announced the launch of Florida SkillBridge coalition, a coalition of industry partners aimed at providing assistance for transitioning servicemembers and employers into Florida’s growing workforce. The coalition will promote the Department of Defense (DOD) SkillBridge Program to employers and transitioning servicemembers across Florida, assist businesses in obtaining DOD SkillBridge approval for skilled workforce training, as well as train, retain, and attract the veterans workforce of tomorrow as we aim to keep Florida competitive.

“More than 1.5 million veterans call Florida home, making Florida the third largest veteran population in nation,” said Florida Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Mark Wilson. “We have 371,000 jobs open in Florida and 614,000 people looking for jobs. To bridge that gap, Florida is investing in and upskilling its transitioning servicemembers with new credentials and matching the skilled talent to the corporate needs in Florida. This investment is more important now than ever as we secure Florida’s future and prepare for the additional 4 million people who are expected to call Florida home by 2030.”

The DOD SkillBridge Program, established in 2014, allows transitioning servicemembers during their final 180 days of active duty service to work as an apprentice, intern, or fellow at a private or public employer while maintaining their DOD salary and benefits with the goal of them smoothly easing into their new career. Connecting servicemembers with industry partners in real-world job experiences, the DOD SkillBridge program allows those servicemembers to gain valuable civilian experience through specific industry training while connecting them to industry partners who are provided an opportunity to access and leverage the world’s most highly trained and motivated workforce at no cost.

“Florida’s statewide SkillBridge coalition will lead the state’s efforts to increase awareness among transitioning servicemembers and employers,” said Veterans Florida Executive Director Joe Marino. “The mission of the SkillBridge initiative is clear: Train, retain, and attract the veteran workforce of tomorrow and maintain Florida’s competitive edge by creating a talent pipeline to fuel economic growth.”

Florida’s military installations and defense industries are powerful economic drivers, and businesses throughout Florida need to see Florida’s veterans as the workforce of today and tomorrow. Servicemembers typically remain in the state where their military service ended and retaining skilled talent in Florida will increase Florida’s economic activity as it rebounds and continues to grow the economy to the 10th largest in the world by 2030. The Florida Chamber is uniting Florida’s business community around SB 586 and HB 435 to help ensure Florida’s global competitiveness, prosperity and high-paying jobs, and vibrant and resilient communities for all Americans.

“SkillBridge gave me the opportunity to receive an internship to work with IBM’s Watson division and is the reason I now work at Amazon Web Services,” said retired U.S. Army Colonel and Amazon Web Services Engagement Manager Derrick Fishback, a former SkillBridge participant. “Expanding the program will give more servicemembers the same professional opportunity to positively transition that I had and help them get their foot in the door with employers.”

For more information or to join the Florida SkillBridge Coalition,


Support for Florida Skillbridge Coalition:

“FEDC members hear firsthand from locating and expanding employers who value the skills of Florida servicemembers. DOD Skillbridge will allow these growing companies to match the right skills to the right position thus ensuring long-term success for the servicemember and for the company.” Beth Cicchetti, Executive Director, Florida Economic Development Council

“Brevard County is home to thousands of active duty, reserve and guard personnel, who, along with military families and veterans, enrich our community and help fuel our economy. SkillBridge will help retain more of these talented individuals in Florida’s communities by helping them transition to the civilian careers where their discipline and work ethic is in high demand.”  – Lynda L. Weatherman, President and CEO, Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast

“Florida remains steadfast in its commitment to support the career ambitions of the more than 16,000 servicemembers transitioning from our 21 military bases each year. This legislation ensures our veterans and their families will find no shortage of opportunity here and keeps Florida as their top destination when transitioning to civilian life.” – James S. “Hammer” Hartsell, Deputy Executive Director, Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs

“Supporting veterans with long-term, self-sustaining employment is the positive effect of a statewide SkillBridge solution. The impact of career alignment as veterans transition to civilian life creates a ripple effect of positive outcomes that can support a solid foundation as veterans enter the next chapter of their lives.” – Cesar Ruiz, President & CEO, Learning Alliance Corporation

“DOD SkillBridge exists to provide our transitioning service members the professional career development tools, resources, and in-demand industry certifications to launch themselves into the transitioning ecosystem. SkillBridge internship offers them the medium, experience, and time to successfully navigate the extreme cultural differences between the military and civilian workplace, which is one of the most difficult adjustments to make for a successful transition.” – Patricia Piazza, Program Manager, Onward to Opportunity

“This legislation will help provide our transitioning servicemembers the resources needed to successfully find high-quality work. We must continue to do everything we can to keep Florida as the most military-friendly state in the nation.”— Senator Tom Wright

“This legislation will position veterans to pursue high-tech job opportunities in Florida. This bill will give our veterans greater resources to transition the skills attained in the military into opportunities available in the civilian sector, such as modeling, simulation, and training or aviation. Their talents and abilities will strengthen Florida’s economy. On the Space Coast aerospace and defense contractors have benefited from the experience that veterans bring to the workplace— both in terms of technical expertise and military culture.  I am proud to work with my friend, Senator Tom Wright, to support our veterans and military families with this important legislation.”— Representative Tyler Sirois

“Addressing the skills gap in Florida’s manufacturing sector is vital for its future economic growth. Programs like the DoD SkillBridge Program create a talent pipeline of transitioning servicemembers for manufacturing employers to hire and train talent.”— Kevin Carr, CEO, FloridaMakes

“SkillBridge is the EXACT program we need to help build the high-tech workforce of the future in Florida. Accelerating experienced veterans through their transition from active duty into our workforce gets them engaged faster in Florida’s innovation ecosystem where they produce results from day one.”—Paul, A. Sohl, Retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral and Florida High Tech Corridor CEO

“The CareerSource Florida network is dedicated to assisting military veterans and their families with starting rewarding, new careers. We are honored to help raise awareness of the DOD SkillBridge program, which has become a valuable tool for our local workforce development board partners as they connect employers with skilled talent and help servicemembers transition into fantastic job opportunities.”—Michelle Dennard, President, CareerSource Florida

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