Veterans’ job 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.

Haines Rep. Bill Thomas.

“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 19-1 the same day.

Anchorage Sen. Bill Wielechowski.

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 timing and cost. That means the House will have to approve the Senate’s version, or the other way around.

Thomas’ House bill has been assigned to one Senate committee, indicating it may be the most likely to pass both chambers first. Most senators have signed on as co-sponsors.

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