As his six years in the U.S. Air Force was ending, Abdiel Gonzalez knew he wanted to return to his hometown of Rio Rico but wasn’t sure that would be possible.

Then he learned about the U.S. Department of Defense’s SkillBridge Program, which connects former service members with civilian job training opportunities, including apprenticeships and internships.

“I was talking to other airmen during my last deployment,” Gonzalez said. “They mentioned SkillBridge and how it helps people from any branch of service locate a company and work for them as an intern. This makes finding work a lot easier after you finish your contract.”

Service members can be granted up to 180 days to focus solely on training full-time with approved industry partners. These partners offer hands-on training and work experience while evaluating the service member’s skills and fit with the company.

Gonzalez saw UniSource on the list of SkillBridge employers and decided to pursue an internship. In the back of his mind, he hoped he might eventually get a position in the Rio Rico area, his hometown. With his background as an Air Force Electrical Systems Journeyman, the lineman apprenticeship program seemed like a perfect fit.

It was also a perfect fit for UniSource.

“We’d had a lineman vacancy in our Santa Cruz District since 2021,” said Christy Boone, a Senior Employee and Labor Relations Business Partner, who worked closely in bringing Gonzalez on as an intern through SkillBridge. Steve Hanes, T&D Regional Manager, also worked with the Arizona Department of Labor to transfer Gonzalez’s military electrical training to an apprentice role.

Boone said the SkillBridge program has been a win-win. “We were able to hire a very well-qualified candidate for a hard-to-fill job, and Abdiel was able to secure a skilled position in a location he wanted. Best of all, he wasn’t set back in his career due to the transition from military to civilian life.”

“Everyone took me in and helped me adjust to civilian life,” Gonzalez said. “It’s been seamless.”

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