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Witness Testimony of Dennis M. Cullinan, National Legislative Service, Director, Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States

 

 

MADAM CHAIRWOMAN AND MEMBERS OF THIS SUBCOMMITTEE:

On behalf of the 2.4 million men and women of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. (VFW), this nation’s largest combat veterans’ organization, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to testify today on the above noted subject.

As cited in the September 2005 “Study on Coordination of Job Training Standards with Certification Standards for Military Occupational Specialties,” our nation needs an increasingly skilled workforce.  We would all agree that there is no more a deserving or more valuable group of American workers than our Nation’s service members and veterans.  Three key areas governing access to today’s high paying and highly technical job areas are the following credentials:

Licensure    Licenses are granted by government organizations to regulate the practice of a profession.  A license is a mandatory credential.

Certification –Certifications are granted by industry stakeholders to attest to an individual’s attainment of knowledge and skills.  A certification is a voluntary credential,   but often required or preferred by employers.

Apprenticeship – Registered Apprenticeship is a training system, combining on-the-job learning an related instruction, in which workers learn the practical and theoretical aspects of a skilled occupation leading to a nationally recognized Certificate of Completion of Apprenticeship.

Civilian credentials maximize a servicemember’s ability to demonstrate that the skills acquired in the military are on a par with their civilian counterparts.  This results in diminishing the periods of unemployment or underemployment that might otherwise occur when moving into the civilian workforce. 

We acknowledge that the military services have made significant strides in addressing civilian credentialing.  Even with these accomplishments, however, there is no centralized oversight of civilian credentialing.  For most civilian occupations, there is no single entity responsible for all of the aspects of credentialing.  There is a lack of accreditation of certification agencies and uniform standards and a lack of centralized information on certification requirements of information on civilian credentialing requirements across occupations.   This in itself offers a significant impediment to our men and women leaving the military from transitioning smoothly into the modern civilian workforce environment even though they are often highly qualified for particular technical jobs.

The civilian workforce increasingly relies upon credentialing as a way to regulate entry into certain occupations and to promote accountability for performance and public safety.  Its value to the military is also being increasingly recognized.  Credentialing offers professional growth and development opportunities for individuals in the service and has been used by the military services for both recruiting and retention.  Civilian credentialing can be viewed as an opportunity for service members transitioning to the civilian workforce to demonstrate to employers the comparability and value of their military education, training, and experience.

Occupational credentialing is an official recognition of a process of meeting a set of defined standards, generally through education, training, experience, and testing.  Licensure, certification, and Registered Apprenticeships are the primary types of occupational credentialing.

The gaps that exist between requirements for civilian occupational credentials and the world class education, training, and experience provided by the military continue to make it difficult for transitioning military to make a smooth entry into the appropriate civilian sector employment.

Additional challenges to credentialing the servicemember include statutory fiscal constraints.  Insufficient legal authority exists for the Armed Forces to expend appropriated funds for service members to acquire civilian/commercial occupational credentials.  For example, absent specific statutory authority, appropriated funds may not generally be used to pay for commercial certifications, although appropriated funds may be used to pay for commercially contracted training courses that include an examination leading to credentials if the examination logically relates to the training and is part of the purchase price of the course "package."  Reserve forces face additional constraints.

Even with these constraints and challenges, the credentialing picture for our service members transitioning into the civilian workforce has improved markedly with the current and continuing programs of each of the military services; and the cooperative efforts between the Departments of Labor and Defense.

It is clear, however, that much more needs to be done, and done quickly.  The situation is especially urgent not only in the context of doing the right thing by our young men and women moving from military to civilian lives but in considering that a high number of these important jobs are now being carried out by baby boomers.  Over the next ten years over half of this aging population will be

retiring.  It is very much in our national interests to make sure we have the right people in place to assume these very important and highly demanding occupations—this is a matter of our collective economic and governmental security.

Madam Chairwoman and members of this Subcommittee, this concludes my testimony, and I would urge you to review attached VFW Resolution No. 618 entitled “Licensure and Certification” for additional recommendations on this topic.  I would be happy to respond to any questions you may have.

Thank you.


Resolution No. 618

LICENSURE AND CERTIFICATION

WHEREAS, every year, over 200,000 members of the armed forces leave the military; and

WHEREAS, skilled service members leaving the armed forces miss out on the opportunity to quickly move into a career and/or long-term employability because they must undergo lengthy and expensive retraining in order to meet civilian licensure and certification requirements; and

WHEREAS, many of those individuals clearly possess the skills and knowledge to meet licensing and certification requirements due to their military occupations; now, therefore

BE IT RESOLVED, by the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, that we urge a standardized licensure and certification requirement be adopted by the appropriate federal and state agencies; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that recently separated service members be afforded the opportunity to take licensing and certification exams based on existing skills acquired while servicing in the military.

Submitted by Commander-in-Chief

To Committee on VETERANS SERVICE RESOLUTIONS

Approved by the 108th National Convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States.