Inside the Hall of Flags at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, people from across the country met, Feb. 22, to analyze a complicated issue: licensing and credentialing in the private sector, and what can be done to help veterans use their military experience to qualify for civilian jobs.
While many veterans have a great deal of training and work experience from their military service, they are refused licenses or credentials they need for private sector employment because civilian agencies usually won’t recognize such professional backgrounds as valid.
“Because this practice is widespread and contributes substantially to veterans unemployment, The American Legion took the initiative in organizing this summit,” said Harold Barnett, chairman of the Legion’s Economic Commission. “The Chamber of Commerce stepped up to co-sponsor the event and use its influence to help us bring together many key players in the world of licensing and credentialing - both on the military side and the civilian side.”
Barnett began the summit with opening remarks, then introduced Kevin Schmiegel, vice president of the Chamber of Commerce. He talked about the Chamber’s “Hiring Our Heroes” initiative to help veterans and military spouses find jobs with career fairs in communities across the country.
“It’s an ambitious endeavor and we need organizations like the Legion to join us,” Schmiegel said. “And the reason it’s so important that we work with the Legion on this is, they have a very similar infrastructure.” The American Legion has about 14,000 posts nationwide; many are located in rural areas where, Schmiegel said, the jobless rate among veterans and their spouses is even higher than in urban areas.
“So, open up the doors of the Legion (post) for three hours, connect the local Chamber, and bring 20 employers with jobs in those communities, connect them with veterans and spouses that are looking for work, and you’re going to have success,” Schmiegel said.
Other guest speakers included Ismael Ortiz, Jr., assistant secretary of Veterans’ Employment and Training Services (VETS) at the Department of Labor; MGen. Mark MacCarley, deputy commanding general of the First Army, U.S. Army Reserve; Linda Brooks Rix, president and co-chief executive officer of Avue Technologies Corporation; William Offutt, director of external affairs for Military to Medicine; and Peter Gaytan, executive director of The American Legion’s Washington Office.
Panels on the first day of the two-day event covered several aspects of licensing and credentialing, including an overview of the issue, what initiatives the armed services are taking, how current barriers could be broken down, and efforts the Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) is making to help servicemembers earn civilian credentials (i.e., getting a commercial driver’s license when they qualify for motor transport).
Lisa Lutz, a panelist and president of Solutions for Information Design in Burke, Va., talked about how the military has shown strong support in recent years for the credentialing of servicemembers.
“One of the things that we’re seeing more of now is mandatory credentials. There are some occupations in the military where they actually require that you hold a specific certification, or a specific license, in order to hold that military occupational specialty,” Lutz said. “The medical field is one of the big areas. Air traffic controller (positions) in the services typically require an FAA license.
“Voluntary credentialing is also being promoted across many of the services,” Lutz said, “the idea being that if you can give the individual the information that they need and perhaps some funding, they can get the credential on their own time.”
One big change that has helped, according to Lutz, is a recent congressional authorization that allows the Department of Defense to pay for a person’s credentialing while he or she is still on active duty. “The only service that’s currently paying for credentials is the Navy. The other services have not elected to do that for voluntary credentials yet.”
The two-day credentialing summit continues through Feb. 23 with additional panels and guest speakers.