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Witness Testimony of John M. McWilliam, Veterans' Employment and Training Service, Deputy Assistant Secretary, U.S. Department of Labor

Madam Chairwoman and Members of the Subcommittee:

I appreciate the opportunity to appear before you today to talk about the role of the Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS) in helping transitioning servicemembers and veterans attain the licenses and certifications required for so many civilian jobs. The Department is grateful for the interest of the Committee on this very important issue for veterans, especially for those veterans returning from the Global War on Terror who are interested in obtaining a license or certification to either pursue a career using a skill set learned in the military or acquire a new skill set that requires a license or certification.

Our nation needs an increasingly skilled work force and both the Department of Labor (DOL) and the Department of Defense (DoD) recognize that the skills obtained during an individual’s military service can meet the needs of the civilian workforce.

Since the start of the Global War on Terror, VETS has increased its focus on servicemembers transitioning from military to civilian employment.  Our strategy is three-pronged:

First, we are working with the DoD to get more troops to the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) employment workshops. TAP is our earliest opportunity to identify transitioning servicemembers that might need help in obtaining licenses or certifications to pursue civilian careers.  Through TAP, attendees are linked to the federally-funded One-Stop Career Centers, where veterans receive priority for employment and training services in their hometowns.  Licensure and certification is one of the topics covered in the TAP employment workshops.  The instruction describes credentials and their purpose and importance in the civilian job market.  The workshops also point the service member toward available resources, including electronic tools to assist the service member in obtaining information on licensing and certification.

At One-Stop Career Centers across the nation, veteran employment specialists are dedicated to identifying employment opportunities for veterans, including those that require a license or certification.  Specialized assistance is available at the One-Stops to get veterans the help they need to qualify for and obtain meaningfuljobs with career paths.  

Specialized services are also offered to those returning Global War on Terror veterans who are seriously wounded and injured through the Department’s Recovery & Employment Assistance Lifelines (REALifelines) Program that provides  one-on-one  employment assistance.

Secondly, we are educating servicemembers and employers on their rights and responsibilities under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), and vigorously investigating complaints under the law. 

Finally, we continue to reach out to employers through our national HireVetsFirst Campaign, which highlights the value that veterans bring to their workforce.  The HireVetsFirst campaign is coordinating with each State to stage at least one job fair between November 1st and the 15th.  Overall, VETS expects there will be over 70 veteran only job fairs during this time frame.  Our goal is to achieve maximum visibility and demand for veterans’ employment with employers throughout the United States. 

Public Law 109-461

Section 604 of Public Law 109-461, December 2006, authorizes the Assistant Secretary for Veterans' Employment and Training to carry out a demonstration project on credentialing for the purpose of facilitating the seamless transition of members of the Armed Forces from service on active duty to civilian employment.

DoD/DOL Work Group

Prior to the enactment of PL 109-461, a joint Credentialing Work Group was formed in April 2006 to coordinate efforts on licensing and certification. This group is composed of representatives from the DoD, DOL’s Employment and Training Administration and VETS. The Work Group has incorporated the guidance of PL 109-461 into its efforts and is developing a strategy to work with Service Schools, industries, and certifying bodies to develop new pathways for obtaining qualifications and certifications for transitioning servicemembers.

The Work Group considered various methods of identifying which military occupations to target.  We decided to focus on military occupations that comprise a high proportion of exiting servicemembers, and that can be matched to high-demand occupations in high-growth industries.  We anticipate that these selection criteria will result in the greatest impact for the largest number of transitioning servicemembers.  

The group is gathering data on the most densely populated Military Occupational Specialties (MOSs) in the services.  They will then analyze these MOSs and correlate them with high-demand, high-growth occupations. The Work Group will also take into account factors such as wage rates in identified civilian occupations, and types of credentials such as state or federal licenses, apprenticeship completion certificates, or other certifications. 

The Work Group will assess the curricula used to train servicemembers for selected military occupations, and contrast it to the civilian training that leads to credentials in corresponding in-demand civilian occupations.  Working with Service Schools and industries, the Work Group will determine what military training is relevant to certification for the civilian occupations. Finally, the Work Group will work to identify qualifications and certifications that take advantage of military skills and experience. 

Our objective is to determine how to best align the military and civilian training, and provide opportunities for service members to obtain civilian credentials either through their military training or with minimal additional training. 

Other Credentialing Initiatives

Both the Army and the Navy have Credentialing Opportunities Online (COOL) Websites (www.cool.army.mil  and www.cool.navy.mil ) that map MOSs with civilian occupations, and identify the steps and organizations that can help an individual obtain the necessary credentials.  The DOL-sponsored America’s CareerInfoNet (ACINET) includes a military to civilian occupation translator (www.acinet.org/moc ) that also helps servicemembers match military skills and experience to civilian occupations, and identifies pathways to certifications.  The VMET (Verification of Military Experience and Training) is another tool to transfer military skills to a civilian career.  It is a document provided to servicemembers that lists his or her military experiences and any training they received.   We are working to familiarize private industry with the VMET and its value in determining whether a veteran has the required skill set to succeed in a particular occupation.

Identification of Funding

Since the enactment of Public Law 109-461, VETS has worked to identify funding to support these licensure and credentialing efforts. We are developing a competitive Solicitation for Grant Applications (SGA) using available program year 2007 funding that will support a demonstration program for one MOS.    The SGA will ask the applicants to identify and resolve barriers faced by transitioning servicemembers in obtaining a license or certification.

Because the civilian workforce increasingly relies upon credentialing as a way to regulate entry into certain occupations, DOL intends to request additional funding in future years that would allow this single demonstration project to expand to cover 10 MOSs, thereby creating easier, better, faster paths to certifications and licenses from relevant military training and experience. 

In addition to these focused efforts, we intend to include, as part of the workforce investment activities funded by Veterans’ Workforce Investment Program funds for Program Year 2009, the identification of barriers to licensure and certification for transitioning servicemembers, and we encourage potential grantees to apply for grants to address this issue.

Other Licensing and Certification Initiatives

In addition to the efforts of both Departments in the work group, I want to describe some other initiatives DOL has with business groups and other organizations. 

One example is a trip VETS arranged for a site visit to the Aberdeen Proving Grounds for members of the Trucking Renting and Leasing Association including representatives from three major companies. The purpose of the visit was to introduce the leaders of these companies to how the military prepares its recruits to be truck mechanics.  They learned that selected Army MOSs for mechanics are designed to meet the job specifications for Automotive Service Excellence civilian licensing certifications through the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence. 

While touring the Grounds, these industry representatives addressed the monthly TAP employment workshop being held at the time and answered questions about opportunities for transitioning servicemembers in their industry.  

We recognize that many servicemembers are interested in obtaining a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) and working in the trucking industry upon discharge.  We have worked with the major trucking associations to see how the acquisition of a CDL can be made easier. We are hopeful that in time, the Army MOS for mechanics and drivers will be accepted in the trucking industry without the need for extensive recertification. 

Madam Chairwoman, that concludes my statement and I would be happy to respond to any questions.