FLORIDA - The Florida Chamber of Commerce and Veterans Florida have announced the launch of the Florida SkillBridge coalition. The coalition includes industry partners who have committed to providing assistance to transitioning servicemembers into Florida’s growing workforce.

The coalition intends to promote the Department of Defense (DOD) SkillBridge Program to employers and transitioning servicemembers across the state and assist businesses in obtaining DOD SkillBridge approval for skilled workforce training.

DOD’s SkillBridge program is an opportunity for Service members to gain valuable civilian work experience through specific industry training, apprenticeships, or internships during the last 180 days of service. SkillBridge connects Service members with industry partners in real-world job experiences.

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 from the ongoing pandemic.

“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. He is 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.”

“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.”

“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.”

Republican State Representative Tyler Sirois who represents District 51 which includes much of central Brevard County, has introduced House Bill 435 in the Florida Legislature which would designate Veterans Florida as the state’s principal assistance organization for the federal SkillBridge program. A similar bill has also been introduced in the Florida Senate.

The Florida Chamber is uniting Florida’s business community around both measures to help ensure Florida’s global competitiveness and prosperity.

For more information or to join the Florida SkillBridge Coalition, www.VeteransFlorida.org.

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