OLYMPIA — 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 when families statewide transition to civilian life.
Inslee said veterans and military spouses face 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.
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. About 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.”
The state has a longstanding commitment to military families, the governor said. Inslee’s first executive order 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.
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 positively affect military families.
“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 said he newest executive order builds upon these earlier efforts and further expands transition assistance to veterans and spouses in Washington state.
Here’s a breakdown of some of the action items listed in the executive order:
• Expand the transition council, adding 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.
• Improve data for easier sharing, which helps monitor 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.
• Support veteran and military spouse-owned businesses, to support the program, Linked Deposit, which could help incentivize veteran-owned businesses.
• Continue veteran hiring campaigns to 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.
• 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.
• 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.