Veteran Employment Measure Passes House, Senate

Alaska’s House and Senate have passed bills aimed at easing veterans’ chances of getting jobs.

The measures direct the state to consider military training and experience when granting professional licenses. Alaska licenses about 40 professions, from barbers to contractors to nurses.

House sponsor Bill Thomas, a Haines Republican, says about 1,200 Alaska-based service-members leave the military every year. And the unemployment rate among young veterans is about 22 percent.

“Many have already received quality training through the military. I use an example of mechanics who have the ability to perform the duties and then have to go through the process of being certified at the local level. The other one is a plumber who’s been in the Navy for 20 years,” Thomas says.

“There’s no reason for them to come back and start over again. It’s a way to help them come out, get a job and go forward,” he says.

The bills also tell officials to grant temporary, six-month, professional licenses to qualified veterans. They also direct the University of Alaska to consider military training and experience as credit toward degrees.

House Bill 282 passed without opposition February 1st.

A similar measure, Senate Bill 150, passed the Senate the same day.

Senate sponsor Bill Wielechowski, an Anchorage Democrat, says the measure recognizes veterans’ knowledge.

“There’s no special treatment here. What this bill does is it eliminates the need for duplicative education, classes and training. These service-members have already received this training,”

Wielechowski says. “They’ve already received this education. This will help them more quickly integrate and it’s very likely to lower the unemployment rate for veterans.”

The two bills are very similar. But they have some differences, such as the effective date. That means the House will have to approve the Senate’s version, or the other way around. Sponsors also could compromise and ask both chambers to approve a revised measure.

There’s no word yet on how or when that would happen.

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Ed Schoenfeld is Regional News Director for CoastAlaska, a consortium of public radio stations in Ketchikan, Juneau, Sitka, Petersburg and Wrangell. He primarily covers Southeast Alaska regional topics, including the state ferry system, transboundary mining, the Tongass National Forest and Native corporations and issues. He has also worked as a manager, editor and reporter for the Juneau Empire newspaper and Juneau public radio station KTOO. He’s also reported for commercial station KINY in Juneau and public stations KPFA in Berkley, WYSO in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and WUHY in Philadelphia. He’s lived in Alaska since 1979 and is a contributor to Alaska Public Radio Network newscasts, the Northwest (Public Radio) News Network and National Native News. He is a board member of the Alaska Press Club. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, he lives in Douglas.