There is no better way to honor veterans’ service than by hiring them. Yet despite immense training and valuable, battle-tested leadership experience, veterans often face difficulties in obtaining recognition of their skills for the licenses and certifications required by private sector jobs. And the frequent moves that are a part of military life can create challenges in keeping up occupational licenses for military spouses, too.
Just yesterday, I was privileged to be at the White House while First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden addressed the National Governors Association about this issue, urging governors to help our troops quickly obtain the credentials they need to successfully transition to the civilian workforce.
The First Lady noted that more than 1 million service members will be soon transitioning into civilian life as we end the war in Afghanistan. If we improve the process for obtaining credentialing and licenses, she said, we will not only be helping our military personnel but also lowering the unemployment rate and boosting economic growth.
The First Lady and Dr. Biden also highlighted the findings of a new report, “The Fast Track to Civilian Employment,” showing the progress states are making in this area. For example, 34 states have passed laws to waive the driving skills test for veterans with a record of safely operating vehicles similar to the trucks and buses for which a commercial license is required. If you can operate a fuel truck in Baghdad, you can surely drive one through Birmingham. And for military spouses, 28 states now have measures in place to address the licensing challenges they most frequently face – the transferability of professional credentials across state lines – and an additional 15 states have bills on this issue under consideration.
I’m proud to say that the Labor Department has been at the forefront of addressing the credentialing and licensing issue, and has participated in the Defense Department Military Credentialing and Licensing Task Force created last June by President Obama. The task force has partnered with the five largest manufacturing credentialing bodies to improve opportunities for service members to gain industry-recognized certifications for high-demand manufacturing jobs such as welding, machining and maintenance.
In addition, the department has been working collaboratively with community colleges, vocational-technical schools, unions and state workforce agencies to identify and broadly disseminate best practices to obtain credentials for a variety of occupations. Through the department’s Employment and Training Administration and its Veterans’ Employment and Training Service, we provide specialized programs and online tools with valuable information to assist veterans to qualify for and obtain civilian employment.
Veterans can enter their service branches and military occupation titles or codes into the department’s My Next Move for Veterans and explore related civilian careers. And we recently redesigned the Transition Assistance Program so that separating service members can better learn how to translate their military skills into equivalent civilian terms.
The department shares the commitment of First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden to our service members, veterans and their families. They deserve a fast track to civilian employment, and the Department of Labor could not be more proud to play a role.
Seth Harris is the acting secretary of labor.