With thousands of troops returning home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Utah (like many other states) is facing the very real problem of how to handle the influx of new, skilled, labor. As we discussed last week, Utah has started to take steps to address the issue to ensure that our fighting men and women are better able to return to civilian life when they return.
In a May, 2012 report from The White House, it was noted that “despite having valuable military experience that in many cases is transferrable (sic) to high growth civilian jobs, veterans frequently find formal private sector recognition of their military experiences and skill sets difficult to obtain.” This same report states that roughly 45 % of Post 9/11 veterans have some college or an associates degree, a quarter have graduated high school, and nearly 30% hold at least a bachelors degree.
Despite this, unemployment rates remain high for Post 9/11 veterans. In May of 2012, veterans with a high school graduates saw an unemployment rate of 12.5 percent, those who did attend some college were not far behind at 11 percent , and even college graduates who served in the military saw unemployment rates of 6 percent. When we compare this to the May 2012 national rate of 8.2 percent for high school grads, 7.8 percent for those who attended some college, and 3.9 percent for those who graduated college, it is easy to see that there is a problem.
One issue is that civilian employers generally have very specific requirements to be considered for a job. These qualifications can be as general as having an associates or bachelors degree, or as specific as a type of certification. But oftentimes military experience doesn’t fall into the categories of accepted training or certification for civilian employers. As an example, a combat medic who has been on one, two, or even three tours of duty would, in all reality, be just as qualified as a civilian EMT – however, no medical provider is going to hire someone who has not received EMT certification. As a result, that servicemember is forced to pay both time and money to attend classes to learn things they already know. The process to get certification in any particular field can take months, if not years, during which they are struggling to find a way to make money. As it stands now, the system prevents qualified individuals from finding a job.
To counteract this, Representative Paul Ray (R – Clearfield) is proposing HB 254 – College Credits for Veterans. If passed, a veteran could request a state college or university award credits or competencies for military service. To do this, the institution would cross-reference the individual’s service record with what the American Council on Education recommends as comparable college credit. Think of it as a sort of Advanced Placement course for military members – you receive college credit because you have shown that you are competent in a certain course…even if you did not sit in an actual college class to prove it.
This bill would not mean that returning servicemembers would automatically receive a degree or certification upon return. What it does do is allow our fighting men and women the ability to speed up the process of returning to civilian life. By giving our returning troops the ability to translate combat experience into college credit, we are showing that we respect the work they have done on our behalf, and giving them a fair shot at a strong future.
To contact Rep. Ray, Click Here or call 801-725-2719
Impact on Average Utahn:
High Impact 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1 . 0 No Impact
Necessary 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1 . 0 Unnecessary
Great Bill 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1 . 0 . -1 . -2 . -3 . –4 . -5 Poor Bill