By Debbie Gregory.
Becoming a plumber, electrician or similar skilled laborer will be easier for veterans and their spouses who are looking to relocate to Georgia, thanks to legislation passed by the General Assembly there.
Officials expect more than 60,000 contractor jobs will need to be filled in Georgia by the year 2020. The state’s lawmakers want veterans and their family members to have a fair shot at filling those slots.
Effective July 1, the Veterans Licensure Bill will speed up the certification process for veterans and their family members seeking employment in five in-demand occupations: plumber, electrician, heating and air specialist, residential lighting and utility foreman.
Under the new statute, certification requirements, such as insurance costs and renewal fees, remain unchanged. However, veterans and their families no longer have to furnish reference letters or wait up to a year to take licensing exams to satisfy labor union regulations, as in years past. Instead, a committee will issue certification waivers and immediately approve their licenses if they meet or exceed the levels of training, experience or testing required for state permits.
“Georgia is a military state, with more than 770,000 veterans living here, but many of our veterans returning from deployment face challenges finding employment,” said Gov. Nathan Deal, whose office has been working on the legislation since last year. “The licensure bill will better serve our returning heroes by ensuring that they move into qualified trade positions more quickly upon their return.”
State Rep. John P. Yates, R-Griffin, was among the first lawmakers to sponsor the bill.
As a 91-year-old Army veteran, and chairman of the Georgia House of Representatives’ Defense and Veterans Affairs Committee, Yates said he knows the anxieties military officers face when exiting the armed services. Yates used his experiences to strengthen the state’s veteran employment laws.
“I knew from the moment the governor contacted me about this bill that it would be important to people in the service, because when I was off fighting the war, I was worried if I would get a decent job when I returned home,” said Yates, who served during World War II.
Officials said that by 2016, Georgia will see more than 60,000 members of the military leaving active duty for civilian life. Currently, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, there are 66,000 veterans in the Augusta area, 27,000 of whom are under the age of 45. The state and federal government do not keep records on veteran unemployment in Augusta or Georgia.
“Like all bills, we have to get the word out before we can know what the impact will be,” Yates said of the success of the Veterans Licensure Bill. “At first glance, however, I think it can only help.”