CONTRIBUTORS

Maine government works to return the favor, help veterans secure jobs

Posted Aug. 06, 2014, at 3:59 p.m.

Maine is very special. Natural beauty, close-knit communities, the generosity of neighbors and the work ethic of our people are highlights on a long list of qualities that make our state truly remarkable.

Not everyone is aware, however, that Maine is also special because it’s home to many veterans. In fact, we’re among the states with the largest percentage of veterans. Approximately 12 percent of Maine’s adult population has served in the armed forces. Such a large number of heroes in our midst should always be near the top of any list of reasons why we’re fortunate to live in Maine.

Though few veterans would admit it, virtually all have sacrificed something — time with family and friends, special occasions at home, the first word or step of a child, or possibly the opportunity to earn a better income. Their sacrifices are recalled at specific moments throughout the year. We applaud those who served as they march in parades on Veterans Day and Memorial Day, and we remember the service of veterans when we encounter someone in uniform at the airport or elsewhere.

As commissioner of Maine’s Department of Professional and Financial Regulation, I’m proud state government has an initiative aimed at doing more than ever to make recalling the service and sacrifice of veterans more than an occasional or momentary occurrence. Like other commissioners, I join Gov. Paul LePage and first lady Ann LePage in being passionate about helping veterans. This includes assisting their efforts to secure good jobs.

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At the governor’s request, legislation was passed last year requiring state agencies to take a proactive role in working with veterans and their families to obtain occupational licenses quickly and efficiently, so they can apply for jobs in the public sector.

As many employers know, veterans offer meaningful attributes, including loyalty and a commitment to team-building. Companies are typically well-served when they hire veterans. Gov. LePage and my colleagues at other departments believe it’s important to share that message frequently and to do whatever we can to honor those who have defended our nation.

In addition to loyalty, determination and dependability, many veterans have extraordinary military training and experience. Unfortunately, a significant number are not aware that state government is eager to apply that experience toward the requirements for an occupational license to use in the civilian workforce. This is where my Department’s Office of Professional and Occupational Regulation comes in.

Veterans have skills that can benefit businesses and strengthen our economy, but many do not realize they may already be well on their way to earning a state license — a key tool for gaining quality employment. Licensing staff recently encountered this with a veteran of the Air Force. After a review of his military documents, the plumber trainee license being sought was issued within one day, and he immediately was approved to take the journeyman exam — substantially accelerating the timeframe for getting work or even starting a small business.

Through participation in Maine Department of Labor job fairs and other outreach events and in meetings with military and veterans organizations, my agency is seeking to spread the word that we’re available to personally assist any veteran who wants to determine how his or her experience might be applied toward a license as an electrician, plumber, boiler operator, fuel technician or other occupation. But we’re doing more. We’re expediting the processing of applications and waiving some fees.

During a recent visit with a military unit in Waterville, it was evident that those who serve have tremendous practical experience that should eventually be put to use in our local businesses. We can’t afford to lose that knowledge and know-how. As a state, we are committed to lending a hand to these outstanding citizens as they integrate into the civilian workforce.

Veterans are encouraged to contact the Office of Professional and Occupational Regulation for more information. Details are available at www.maine.gov/pfr or by calling 624-8605. We want to return the favor and serve those who have given so much.

Anne Head is commissioner of the Maine Department of Professional and Financial Regulation.

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