By: Andrea Dickerson

Bridging the Military-To-Civilian Gap

Steve Gonzalez, assistant director of The American Legion’s Veterans Employment & Education Division, addresses group members during a Legion Credentialing Summit Working Group meeting in the D.C. office. (Photo by Andrea Dickerson)

The American Legion’s Credentialing Summit Working Group met at The American Legion’s D.C. office Oct. 1 in preparation for the 2015 National Credentialing Summit.

The working group, which is comprised of licensing and credentialing advocates and stakeholders, will meet monthly until February to create an impactful agenda for the upcoming summit that will include discussion panels and guest speakers. Group members put their heads together during the meeting to identify the types of panels needed for the summit and identified important initiatives to highlight. Most importantly, the group focused on the big picture – building up after previous successful summits and getting people actively involved.

Since the 1990s, licensing and credentialing has been one of many prevailing campaigns initiated by the Legion. The organization has assertively encouraged credentialing bodies to give military-trained veterans appropriate credit toward civilian licenses and certifications in recognition of their training and acquired skills, allowing them to seamlessly transition into the civilian workplace.

“There is interest in recognizing military training and experience, but employers just aren’t sure how to do it,” said Steve Gonzalez, assistant director of the Legion’s Veterans Employment & Education Division. “When we people talk about credentialing, they will shake their head, give a dumbfounded look and say ‘Yeah, I know what you’re talking about,’ because it’s a key word now – even down to the president mentioning it in his speeches. But let’s not kid ourselves: When you ask someone what a credential is and what it involves, most people act like they know what we are talking about. But we all know that the number of people that actually know is far and few between.”

As a result, the organization collaborated with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to host credentialing summits aimed at creating open dialogues and discussions regarding key credentialing issues. The Veteran Skills to Jobs Act – a bill allowing military training to satisfy training or certification requirements needed to qualify for a federal license in areas, including maritime and aviation industries – was a product of the 2012 summit. President Obama signed it into law just months after the summit concluded.

During the summit, the veterans, transitioning servicemembers and spouses will learn the ins and outs of credentialing, and the barriers that may impact their future job searches, Gonzalez said. “No matter how much money is put into military training, there is a gap that disconnects servicemembers from the rest of the civilian population because they can’t apply those same skill sets when they get out even if they are working on the same equipment,” he said. “If you were a Black Hawk mechanic, there is no reason you shouldn’t be able to work for Sikorsky.”

The American Legion’s 2015 National Credentialing Summit is tentatively scheduled for Feb. 18-19.