Skillbridge Internship Program: Claire Wilson Brings Naval Skills to the Manufacturing World

Claire Wilson

For the last seven years Claire Wilson has served in the U.S. Navy in roles that have taken her from Japan to California. Recently, when it came time to transition from active-duty military to civilian life, she found herself about as far from the ocean as a sailor can get in Paton, Iowa.

In August, Wilson started an internship at John Deere Paton, where the company manufactures planters. She is participating in a U.S. Department of Defense program called DoD Skillbridge, which helps place active duty military members in civilian jobs before their service ends.

"When I checked out the Skillbridge website for potential companies, I was excited to see that John Deere was an approved company to work with in the geographic area I planned to move to," Wilson said. "John Deere has a positive global mission and offers a chance to continue belonging to something greater than myself, alongside a committed and impactful team."

Claire Wilson
Claire Wilson in her Navy uniform.

At Paton, Wilson is shadowing factory leadership, learning industry best practices for manufacturing supervision, quality control, supply management, material logistics and data analytics. She is also bringing her experience training sailors in the Navy and leading teams to her assignment at Deere.

"One of my projects is to create a training program that will help new hires get up to speed fast and with heightened effectiveness," Wilson said, adding she has also helped create employee surveys and helped with onboarding new hires. "I have even gotten to jump in with the production line here and there to learn and help.”

David Bostic, John Deere's manager of military recruiting, said military veterans and the Skillbridge program are a great fit when it comes to finding capable employees.

"Military veterans not only have training and technical experience, they leave the service with a level of teamwork experience and commitment that is rare for their civilian peer group," Bostic said. "For me, it's an honor to use our training and tool benefits to help these men and women successfully transition from the military to civilian careers."

Wilson said she sees a lot of similarities between the Navy and John Deere.

"A ship runs because of the hard work, willingness and drive of a very special teaming of sailors, programs and processes," she explained. "Similarly, a manufacturing factory meets business goals and customer needs because of the impressive coming together of employees, programs and processes. Seeing the team building, continuity of operations and lock-step of a highly efficient and effective factory like John Deere Paton is motivating."