Washington, D.C. – Congresswoman Elise Stefanik has announced that her efforts to enhance opportunities for departing service members through the SkillBridge program have been successful. The U.S. Department of Labor released an opinion letter clarifying that employers providing meaningful on-the-job training to active duty service members through the SkillBridge program are not subject to various employment laws. Congresswoman Stefanik sent a letter to the Secretary of Labor in February requesting this clear-cut exemption so participating service members would no longer be denied training opportunities and reiterated the need for decisive action with the Secretary during a Congressional hearing in May.
“I am grateful to the Department of Labor for taking action on this important issue for servicemembers at Fort Drum who are in the process of transitioning to civilian life,” said Congresswoman Stefanik. “North Country employers have told me they are eager to provide soldiers with on-the-job training and experience, but have remained on the sidelines due to legal uncertainty. I was proud to advocate for our Fort Drum soldiers by raising this issue with the Secretary of Labor and am thrilled they have provided much needed clarity to allow servicemembers to gain hands-on experience through SkillBridge – an extremely valuable program for those who have served our country selflessly and are embarking on the next chapter in their lives. I thank Administrator Stanton for working with me to deliver this result for my district.”
“These laws do not cover service members participating in compliant, learning-focused training in the U.S. Department of Defense’s SkillBridge program. Stretching their scope to do so would be a disservice to those who serve our country in uniform and effectively deny these service members the opportunity to receive valuable on-the-job training to prepare them for a career after they leave the military,” said Wage and Hour Division Administrator Cheryl Stanton. “This opinion letter will provide necessary clarity to businesses interested in participating in the SkillBridge program and ultimately benefit future transitioning service members and their families.”
"We are thankful for Rep. Stefanik’s assistance seeking clarification from the Department of Labor on this extremely important issue," said Bill Halsey, president, Structural Associates, Inc. "Safe, supervised, on-the-job training is the cornerstone of any successful development program. With this clarification, we are better able to work with the SkillBridge program and our industry partners to enhance the skills education and career opportunities for our transitioning military— and express our gratitude for their service."
At Fort Drum, active duty service members who are within 180 days of exiting the military can participate in the Department of Defense’s SkillBridge program. This program provides soldiers hands-on skills education in a wide variety of crafts and occupations. Local employers have expressed interest in participating in this program, but have been concerned of running afoul of various employment laws administered by the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division since the active duty service members are paid by the military, not the business providing the training opportunity. This legal uncertainty has limited opportunities for service members to develop the industry-specific skills to excel in the civilian workforce.