In the next several years, more than 1 million U.S. military service members will transition to the civilian workforce. It’s a shift that often proves challenging. In addition to finding a job that takes advantage of their transferrable skills, finding the right cultural fit is also crucial.
For Bobby Padilla, who served in the Air Force from 1993 through 2019, the transition was an especially personal process. In November 2018, Padilla’s mother passed away from brain cancer. His experience helping her navigate the health care system prompted the then-senior master sergeant shift his focus and find an outlet where he could continue to help others.
Earlier this year, Padilla looked into UnitedHealth Group’s Military Internship Program (MIP) that he heard about at a town hall meeting at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. MIP is a partnership between UnitedHealth Group and the Department of Defense Skillbridge Program that offers career skills training and workforce reintegration to transitioning active duty service members across all branches of the U.S. Military.
The program was a perfect resource for Padilla, providing a bridge between his military service and his new role as a business analyst in the patient experience department at Optum, which he started in September.
“When I helped my mother go through the health care system, I saw that it was hard to navigate, especially once she was going through her treatments,” Padilla says. “That’s what helped me to find my calling. Now, I’m helping patients who are having similar difficulties, identifying their problems and offering them ways to get around those challenges.”
One of the primary goals of MIP is to transfer knowledge to interns through hands-on experience and job shadowing opportunities with UnitedHealth Group team members. There are currently four main tracks for interns to pursue:
Participants must be transitioning active duty service members with 180 days or more of service remaining, and can be of any rank in any branch.
Eddie Dunn, a retired army master sergeant who oversees the program, says there are three core areas of reintegration into society that are covered in MIP: cultural assimilation, emotional intelligence and vocational alignment.
“When you’re coming out of the military, you’re really learning how to go from one identity to another,” Dunn says. “We’re taught to be selfless, to be courageous, and to step in the line of fire if needed. It’s important for service members to find like-minded individuals and values when moving to the next phase of their lives.”
Padilla says the program hits all those marks and more. “When I first started this journey, I had a lot of anxiety – fear of the unknown,” he says. “But the program was great; it allowed me to transition to a place that aligns so much with our core values within the military.”
MIP is just one of the ways UnitedHealth Group advocates for the military and veterans. To help returning service members or veterans transition to a new career, UnitedHealth Group provides tools that help them understand how their skills can be applied across the company, including:
Additionally, UnitedHealth Group partners with several organizations nationwide that promote education and career opportunities geared toward veterans and their families, including Paralyzed Veterans of America, the Military Officers Association of America, National Military Family Association, Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation, Fisher House Foundation and more.