AUGUSTA — Many of the people who serve in the military wind up learning skills that could easily translate into jobs later, except for professional requirements that typically eye a more traditional educational pathway for those seeking a license.
For Rep. Jared Golden, D-Lewiston, it’s a bureaucratic obstacle that could be overcome to give veterans a better shot at making the sometimes-difficult transition to civilian life.
His bill to give veterans a better chance has the backing of the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee and has at least a shot of squeaking through the Legislature in its final weeks of this session.
“The military provides excellent training and real-world experience in a number of fields, like law enforcement, nursing and mechanics,” Golden told colleagues. “When veterans come home, however, they often have to go through the entire civilian educational programs these fields require in order to get the needed licensure or certification to work in those fields.”
“This results in wasted time and expense going over things they already know and have experience with,” he said. “This is unfair to veterans because it slows and discourages their transition into civilian life.”
His proposal would give the director of the Office of Professional and Occupational Regulation the authority “to modify licensing requirements of professional licensing boards on a case-by-case basis for veterans,” effectively removing barriers Golden believes “veterans shouldn’t have to face.”
“This bill is not good for Maine; this bill is great for Maine,” said Adria Horn, director for the Maine Bureau of Veterans Services.
Horn said it would allow Maine to make a “meaningful change to service members seeking to apply their military training and experience to their licensing requirements in the civilian workforce.”
She said the measure is “an acknowledgement that Maine needs to do more to continue seeing veterans and their military training as too valuable to turn away.”
Moreover, Horn said, “it’s a validation that service members and their training has variance by skill set, by service, and by time in service” that will help the state attract talented veterans who are entering the civilian workforce.
Auta Main, the veterans program manager for the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Employment Services, told lawmakers that almost daily reports cite the frustration of veterans who find that employers “do not recognize their military education and experience,” which leaves a majority of veterans underemployed despite existing programs that are seeking to lend a hand.
“Expediting the licensing process for veterans to get them into well-paying, civilian careers by giving them credit for both their military training and their work experience is essential,” Main said.
Main said Golden’s proposal “has the potential to move veterans much more quickly into high-wage, in-demand occupations in Maine, a win-win for both job-seekers and employers.”
That’s particularly true, Main said, because “a majority of these licensed occupations provide excellent wages, benefits and a career ladder.”
Officials pointed out, though, that the licensing change is only a start on what’s needed to assist job-seeking veterans more effectively.
“This bill is just one step of many the state of Maine needs to take,” said Anne Head, commissioner of the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation.