Summit Seeks to Ease Retraining for Troops Entering Civilian Workforce

February 22, 2012 (Stars and Stripes) – Business leaders and veterans advocates say state licensing and certification rules are a crippling obstacle for troops seeking post-military careers, and the problem will worsen if solutions aren’t found soon.

Defense officials have identified more than 2,000 private-sector certifications and licensing programs that active-duty troops may immediately qualify for, based on their military skills. But only a few states have provisions to fast-track troops seeking those employment documents.

“At some point, state agencies that license workers must balance their insistence on paperwork against their obligation to our servicemembers,” said Maj. Gen. Mark MacCarley, who oversees troop mobilization and post-military transition programs as deputy commanding general of the Army Reserve. “I understand each state has a sovereign interest in setting its own [work-qualification] standards, but if the idea behind the licensing and credentials is creating a barrier for troops already qualified for those jobs, that is wrong.”

The comments came Wednesday during the two-day national credentialing summit hosted by the American Legion and U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The event is designed to offer a list of best practices for states and military transition programs, and help reduce veteran unemployment.

Speakers also relayed anecdotes of troops frustrated by red tape and redundant training upon leaving the service.

One rifle company commander was told he’d need 100 hours of supervised training to qualify for security work. A convoy driver who served in Afghanistan couldn’t qualify for a commercial driver’s license. An infantryman with combat experience couldn’t get hired as a highway patrolman without extensive retraining.

Defense and Department of Labor officials said they’ve begun tackling the problem, developing pilot programs to show how medical professionals, mechanics and other trade workers can transition to civilian professions without lengthy training programs.

Ed Kringer, state liaison for the Pentagon’s community and family policy office, said officials expect in the next month to unveil new military transcripts for departing servicemembers, highlighting their skills and specialties in language easier for civilian employers to understand. Hiring experts at the summit lauded the initiative.

A 2010 poll by the Society for Human Resource Management found that 60 percent of private sector personnel officials did not understand how military missions and skills translated into non-military job qualifications.

Six states have passed legislation to help solve that problem. In Washington state, lawmakers approved rules mandating that troops not be made to repeat training programs they’ve already mastered.

Kringer said 23 other states are considering similar steps.

But attendees at the conference said all 50 states will have to find better answers soon, before the next wave of veterans returns home. The Pentagon is looking to trim about 100,000 troops from its ground forces by the end of 2017, adding even more veterans to the civilian workforce.

“The goal here is employment,” Kringer said. “It’s not just to simply get people credentials. It’s to get people working.”

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