Citing concerns about homelessness and unemployment among veterans, a state Senate panel Monday considered a bill that would let job seekers use military experience to obtain professional licenses.
During a meeting of the senate’s Veterans Affairs Committee, Sen. Camera Bartolotta, R-, Washington, said that military veterans have valuable skills that aren’t always recognized in the job market.
Revising licensing requirements would allow recognize veterans’ credentials and reduce barriers to employment, she said.
Pennsylvania requires professional and occupational licenses for hundreds of professions, from barbers and hair stylists to teachers and emergency medical technicians.
A bill Bartolotta introduced seeks ways to ease licensing requirements for veterans and their families. State agencies would be directed to study which state licenses take advantage of skills offered in the military, and make recommendations for revising licensure requirements.
In testimony before the committee, top military officials said that easing licensing requirements would encourage more military veterans and their families to stay in Pennsylvania, and reduce joblessness and potentially homelessness among veterans.
Harold Cooney, a regional liaison from the federal U.S. Defense Department, told lawmakers that the U.S. Labor Department estimates that military skills apply to almost 1,000 civilian occupations.
“Despite being well prepared for civilian employment, veterans report that finding a job is a top challenge they face while transitioning to civilian life,” Cooney said. “When job markets are regulated through licensing, veterans can be put at a disadvantage when competing for work with a similarly skilled person from the private sector.”
Cooney said that Pennsylvania is home to more than 1 million veterans, active duty-service members, military family members and spouses.
Gen. Anthony Carrelli, Adjutant General of the PA Department of Military & Veterans Affairs, said that Pennsylvania retain more of those veterans and their families who choose to leave the state to transition to civilian life.
There are many ways Pennsylvania can make itself more attractive to military veterans, whether it’s by offering in-state college tuition to military children or creating reciprocal licensing agreements with other states, Carrelli said.
Carrelli said the end goal of the reforms should be “full licensure,” but understands that reforms could be more incremental than that.
“If someone can show a military resume and get a license, that would be the best of all worlds,” Carrelli said. “If not, we can do some things in the meantime while we’re working towards that.”
Matt Shafer, a senior policy analyst at the Council for State Governments, said Pennsylvania could adopt changes that are already in place in other states, such as Ohio, which offers alternative paths to licensure for veterans.
Under that policy, veterans can claim military experience as partial credit in some professional courses.
Shafer said that licensing boards in Maryland and Kentucky have expedited the license application process for veterans, while boards in Wisconsin waive civilian training for veterans and let them obtain licenses if they pass written exams.
Cooney said Pennsylvania could also adopt more interstate compacts, which would make licenses transferable from one state to another.
The review of military conversions is part of a larger effort to revise state licensing requirements to eliminate barriers to employment.
Last year, Gov. Tom Wolf called on the General Assembly to repeal 13 occupational licenses and replace them with less restrictive requirements.