Without civilian certifications, such as a commercial driver's license or a nursing certificate, it can be nearly impossible for veterans to find jobs in a field in which they are already versed.
"Military training doesn't transfer to the civilian sector," said Ben Wiselogle, veterans program coordinator at the University of Washington Bothell.
"These women and men have been trained by the federal government, on the federal dollar, then they are required to get these certifications again to gain concepts and skills they've already practiced."
A medic who has triage experience on the battlefield would need to get recertified to practice as a civilian, for example.
"It's a needless redundancy," Wiselogle said.
These are some of the issues Washington Sen. Patty Murray has tried to tackle through the 2011 VOW to Hire Heroes Act. Its goal is to put veterans back to work by providing job skills training and making certification easier. The Democratic senator is a member of the Committee on Veterans' Affairs and co-wrote the bill. VOW stands for Veterans Opportunity to Work.
Murray met with a roundtable of veterans' advocates here Tuesday to discuss the act's progress.
"The most important thing is for communities to come together to accept the responsibility of the law and make it happen," Murray said. "We need to work together to provide the resources necessity to help."
A major focus of the law is to improve the military's Transitional Assistance Program for all separating service members.
"We can require that somebody gets TAP training, but what we have to do is make sure there is an employer ready to hire them," Murray said.
"We can tell employers they've got a tax credit to hire somebody, but we need to make sure there are folk who are coming out and applying for those jobs."
The Center for Advanced Manufacturing Puget Sound is one organization working to pair former service members with employers.
Center executive director and Vietnam veteran Tom McLaughlin runs the organization's Military to Manufacturing program. It helps service members and veterans find career paths in manufacturing.
"Our veterans are special," he said. "They want an opportunity, they don't want a handout."
The program is open to "anyone who has gone through the military experience," McLaughlin said.
It starts with a three-day workshop at which individuals learn about manufacturing industries. The program helps them match skills they learned in the military to manufacturing jobs. The program has 133 skills-translation models already worked out to help veterans find work.
McLaughlin said the act has identified the need for this group of people. "It's broadened awareness that we need to take care of our veterans and has helped us start to figure out how we're going to deal with it," McLaughlin said.
Ashley Stewart: 425-339-3037; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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