Executive order helps military spouses and veterans find jobs, training more easily

Gov. Jay Inslee signed an executive order Monday that builds upon the state’s efforts to support military spouses and veterans with employment and training opportunities as families transition to civilian life in Washington state.

Veterans and military spouses face unique challenges to gaining private sector employment. Washington has more than 79,000 active duty members from the military, National Guard and the reserve forces. Service personnel and private sector employers are not always able to see how a service member’s military experience corresponds directly to employment qualifications. And transferring between duty stations can cause negative impacts for spouses due to frequent disruptions in employment, education and training credentials.

A number of military spouses and members join Gov. Jay Inslee up front as he signs the executive order. (Photo courtesy of Legislative Services)

Military spouses also experience higher under-employment and unemployment, despite having equal or higher education or work experience than other job applicants. They experience a 31 percent under-employment rate and a 16 percent unemployment rate. Approximately 53 percent of service members are married, which means about 30,000 military spouses live in Washington.

“Our military spouses often follow their military members around the world,” Inslee said. “As if that’s not challenging enough, finding work is tough.”

During the signing, Inslee said that veterans, military service members, and military families are essential and vibrant members of Washington’s culture, economy and workforce.

“We honor their service and commitment by ensuring every veteran, transitioning service member, Reserve and National Guard member, and military spouse is able to secure a living wage job,” Inslee said. “This order expands our commitment to military families.”

Military members join Monday’s executive order signing on Monday in Olympia. The order supports military spouses and veterans with employment and training opportunities as families transition to civilian life in Washington state.

The state has a longstanding commitment to military families. The first executive order issued by Inslee after he was inaugurated in 2013 focused on veteran employment as the military was downsizing. Many service members left the military and felt unprepared to enter a job market right after a multi-year recession.

The order mobilized several state agencies to boost workforce and transition services for veterans and spouses. A first-in-the-nation employment center was launched at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and programs such as YesVets and VIE 25 utilized partnerships with businesses and colleges. YesVets encourages Washington businesses to hire veterans and VIE 25 helps veterans get jobs faster by closing their skills gap through classes.

“Our military spouses often follow their military members around the world. As if that’s not challenging enough, finding work is tough.”
— Gov. Jay Inslee

These and other efforts have successfully shortened job search time for transitioning service members, increased their starting wages and shortened the timeline for wage progression.

Alfie Alvarado-Ramos, Veterans Affairs director, said this executive order will impact military families in positive ways.

“Hundreds of military families come to our state each month, and many choose to call Washington home long after their service,” Alvarado-Ramos said. “Supporting the employment of our military spouses ensures the readiness and wellness of our active duty service members, honors the contribution of military families, and ultimately benefits Washington’s economy.”

The governor’s newest executive order builds upon these earlier efforts and further expands transition assistance to veterans and spouses in Washington state.

Lourdes E. ‘Alfie’ Alvarado-Ramos, director of Washington State Department of Veteran Affairs, speaks to a packed room Monday before Gov. Jay Inslee signed the executive order (Photo courtesy of Legislative Services)

Here’s a breakdown of some of the action items listed in the executive order:

1. Expand the transition council

This part of the executive order adds more agencies to the Washington State Military Transition and Readiness Council. It builds on ongoing work that pulls agencies together to talk with the business industry about how to hire veterans.

2. Improve data sharing

Data is crucial for monitoring how well the state and its partners help veterans and military spouses secure good-paying jobs once they transition to civilian life. Many records are currently stored in separate systems and can’t be easily shared between entities. Inslee’s order supports ongoing work to make it easier and faster to share data.

3. Support veteran and military spouse owned businesses

This item would support the program Linked Deposit, which could help incentivize veteran-owned businesses. This multi-year effort is ongoing. The Washington State Dept. of Veterans Affairs will work with multiple agencies to identify and address the barriers of starting a businesses. This would create a designation similar to what women and minority owned businesses have that promotes procurement and hiring of veteran-owned businesses.

Attendees celebrate after Gov. Jay Inslee signs the executive order on Monday. (Office of the Governor photo)

4. Continue veteran hiring campaigns

Promotion campaigns help businesses see the opportunities that come with hiring veterans and military spouses. Inslee’s order directs several state agencies to continue successful campaigns such as YesVets, and expands these efforts to now include military spouses.

5. Improve the employee credential process

This executive order section shortens the paperwork and credential transfer process for a veteran’s or spouse’s moving to Washington. For example, someone who is already licensed as a pharmacist in North Carolina would currently have to retake exams and get recertified to be a pharmacist in Washington, a process that could take up to 12 months. If a military family only plans to be in Washington for three years, then one-third of the employment window is already gone.

6. Apply the current veteran employment plan to military spouses

This continues the state’s effort to hire veterans but now explores how the state can apply the same plan to military spouses. Each Washington state agency has used a veteran employment plan since 2013. About 9 percent of all state employees are veterans and that roughly corresponds with the percentage of veterans who live in Washington.

A number of military spouses and members join Gov. Jay Inslee up front as he signs the executive order. (Office of the Governor photo)

In addition to the new executive order, Inslee designated May 2019 as Hire-a-Military-Spouse Month. The Department of Employment Security and WDVA have also formed a new partnership with the Department of Defense’s Military OneSource. This website engages families early, and will connect military spouses with Washington’s WorkSource career centers and re-employment centers to help reduce military spouse unemployment.

Employment Security Commissioner Suzi LeVine said these collaborative efforts will make a difference.

“I’m the daughter of a Vietnam veteran and have great respect for the sacrifices of our military members and their families,” LeVine said. “Employment Security works hard to alleviate as many obstacles as possible for spouses, and this new executive order and our collaboration with Military OneSource are the latest ways in which we’re focusing on these incredible patriots.”

Employment Security Commissioner Suzi LeVine speaks to the crowd about the importance of agencies working together to help military families. (Office of the Governor photo)

In 2017, the Employment Security Department worked with workforce partners to build the nation’s most comprehensive WorkSource One-Stop at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. It was the first WorkSource center on a military installation in Washington and the third in the nation.

Inslee said this is all about supporting military families, and it deserves our attention.

“This effort is going to take commitment from employers, public and private,” Inslee said. “I thank the employers who hire Washington’s military spouses, veterans and members of the National Guard. They employers know talent when they see it and aren’t afraid to go get it.”

You can connect with the Washington State Department of Veteran Affairs on their Facebook page.

A collection of military hats is displayed during Monday’s signing. (Photo courtesy of Legislative Services)