JOINT BASE SAN ANTNOIO-LACKLAND, Texas —
The Air Force Career Skills Program, or CSP, prepares Airmen through vocational and technical training for a specific career or trade when transitioning from military to civilian employment.
Master Sgt. Angela Santos, superintendent, Education and Technology Branch, Air Force Cryptologic Office, 25th Air Force, at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, first heard about CSP from a friend and headed to the Transition Assistance Program office to learn more.
“That is where I learned all I needed to about this program,” Santos said. “The most important thing to know is that it is a self-initiated opportunity.”
According to Jose Ontiveros, 802nd Forces Support Squadron CSP coordinator, the program is intended to assist transitioning service members by helping them find an internship, apprenticeship or certification program, which can be completed in the 180 days before the last day on active duty.
“There are no rank or term restrictions; officers or enlisted, separating or retiring are eligible, as long as the service member is expecting at least a good conduct discharge,” he said.
Santos, who began her program in April, hopes to acquire additional skills she may need for her next career.
“I want to pick up new technical skills, network, and ease my transition into the civilian workforce overall,” she said. “If my internship results in a job offer, that would be ideal, but even if not, I will still be appreciative for the experience.”
While Santos selected her internship program, there are three options to choose from, depending on how a service member wants to benefit:
Apprenticeship: These are generally a combination of on-the-job training and related instruction that may be sponsored jointly by an employer and union groups, individual employers or employer association;
Internship: These opportunities are for entry-level job-seekers. Internships may be completed in state or local government or in the private sector and may consist of on-the-job training and work experience; or
On-the-Job Training: In this program, job skills are learned at a place of work while performing the actual job.
Another important aspect of CSP is that service members are not limited to local programs. Airmen can research any company or training program to find one that will align with their transition goal.
“The CSP has vendors who are already affiliated with the program, but members are able to seek out their own internships with any company, within legal considerations,” Santos said. “There are also corporate fellowship cohorts with some outstanding companies, but most have specific course dates, so it may not necessarily line up with an Airman’s timeline, as it was for my case.”
Regardless of the chosen employer, there are a number of forms that must be completed and endorsed by an Airman’s unit commander, the CSP provider (employer), the Airman, and the education center before the service member is approved to participate.
“Your unit also has to identify a point of contact who will be responsible for your accountability during program participation,” Santos said. “Airmen can be recalled to their military assignment at any time for mission requirements.”
Once an Airman is approved and begins their program, there is more to learn than just technical job skills. The CSP is also about the transition from military to civilian life.
Santos said simple things like learning to break away from military jargon and acronyms to having to put together business casual or professional attire each day versus a uniform will help ease her transition out of the military and back into civilian life.
“Uncle Sam has been very good to me during my more than 22-year career; I have been blessed to have been able to travel the world, gain a free education through the graduate level, and learn invaluable life-long skills,” she said. “As I head into the civilian work sector, I am looking forward to the challenge of leveraging this education and experience in new and different roles. At the same time, I am excited about the ‘freedoms’ that come with civilian life, such as the ability to choose where to live, what jobs to do, or not, and yes, even the freedom to choose what clothes and color nail polish to wear.”
To obtain more information about career skills training opportunities, contact your installation’s education office.