After serving 21 years in the United States Navy, Nigel Thomasford wondered what he’d do next.
As the days grew closer to retirement, Nigel’s career counselor brought an idea to his attention. They talked to him about the DOD Skillbridge Program, a program designed to give transitioning service members the opportunity to gain valuable civilian work experience through specific industry training, apprenticeships, or internships. Career and transition planning plays a major role in service member’s success outside of the military. The DOD Skillbridge Program partners with companies and organizations to provide an opportunity to access and leverage the world's most highly-trained and motivated workforce, while service members are currently serving their last 180 days of active service.
Interested in the opportunity, Nigel looked at the DOD Skillbridge website to see all of the companies and organizations that were offering internships. He immediately noticed a Cook position at the Audie L. Murphy Memorial Veterans Hospital. “I've been to a couple of culinary schools and college universities while in the Navy, so I was very fond of that and that's why I chose to pursue that position at Audie Murphy,” Nigel stated.
Originally from Brooklyn, New York, Nigel reminisced growing up with his parent’s love for cooking; another reason he chose to try out the Cook position. “I chose the culinary field because it was the fondest moments I had with my parents, who were Nursing and Medical professionals but loved cooking as a pastime.”
Nigel eagerly contacted Ms. Maria Worley, Chief of the Nutrition & Food Service for the South Texas Veterans Health Care System (STVHCS). He expressed his interest in working for her and her team. “Mr. Thomasford contacted me online and from the first email, I could tell that he was positive, and enthusiastic and would be the type of personality that we are looking for as a team member.” Ms. Worley stated. The Nutrition & Food Service served as a part of the national pilot program as a business partner with the DOD Skillbridge Program.
Since that first contact was made with Ms. Worley, fast-forward to today, Nigel has successfully completed the DOD Skillbridge internship and accepted a full-time position as a Senior Cook at the Audie L. Murphy Memorial Veterans Hospital, making this the first site within the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) to graduate and hire a DOD Skillbridge applicant. “I think Skillbridge is one of the best transitional programs the DOD has ever implemented.” Ms. Worley said. According to Pew Research Center, data showed that in 2019, 42% of Veterans felt overqualified for their first positions and the job was not a good fit. “This program is a good way to try a new career or carry through with the skills servicemembers acquired in the military.” Ms. Worley added.
“I highly recommend the Skillbridge program,” Nigel said. “It was so beneficial to me because after being in the service for 21 years, it allowed me to see that I was capable of working with civilians after the military. It also showed me that the skills that I learned in the military, translated into the civilian sector and boosted my confidence.” He added, “When the time came for me to retire, I was not scared of it; I embraced it. I love working for the VA because every day I come into work, it's not a job because I get to give back to the Veterans and as a Veteran, I have stock in it, so I take a lot of pride in what I am doing.”
The South Texas Veterans Health Care System would like to congratulate Mr. Nigel Thomasford on his completion of his DOD Skillbridge internship and accepting a full-time position as a Senior Cook for STVHCS. Special thanks also go out to the National DOD Skillbridge Program for partnering with the Nutrition & Food Service at the Audie L. Murphy Memorial Veterans Hospital. To learn more about the DOD Skillbridge Program, please visit https://skillbridge.osd.mil/. Additionally, you can view Mr. Thomasford’s pathway to success by visiting https://youtu.be/BBBDAoGmqik.