New Utah law eases licensing for military, spouses

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah — Thanks to a new law, finding work in Utah will now be much easier for military members and their spouses who hold professional licenses and certifications from other states.

Signed this week, the law aims to address the employment barriers faced by military families who often move from state-to-state multiple times during a career.

This is a welcome relief for military families and aligns Utah with a Department of Defense priority, taking care of military families. The topic of “license reciprocity” has long had the interest of the military service secretaries, who recently sent a letter to the National Governors Association stating that spouses’ licensing laws would be taken into consideration when they made basing decisions on future military missions.

President Donald Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, also hosted a “listening session” last year on the issue in Washington D.C. attended by military spouses from across the country, including Kim Lopez, a military spouse from Hill.

“We’ve moved nine times in 20 years. My husband has deployed six times. I feel like I’m constantly having to reinvent myself to meet the needs of the job market. This law will help in Utah,” said Lopez, a licensed teacher. “Teaching is what I love, but many states don’t make it easy to transfer credentials. They require additional testing, additional courses, all at a cost of time and money.”

Spouses with professional credentials – teachers, therapists, social workers, medical professionals – already invested time and money to obtain their original licenses or certifications, only to find when they move to a new state, they have to do more in order to get a job. Many don’t feel it’s worth it when they know they may move again in two or three years.

“Licensing requirements vary from state-to-state, and they are often overwhelming, frustrating, time consuming and expensive, which is difficult to manage if you can’t get a job until you have a license in that state,” said Danielle Lankford, a military spouse, non-profit fundraiser, and volunteer for Hiring our Heroes.

Lankford, who co-chairs the Military Spouse Professional Network, said she wanted to be a teacher, but decided against it because any job that required state licensing wasn’t “transportable” and didn’t make sense for her because of the variance in state licensing requirements. She knows spouses who have had to choose between losing their careers and remaining behind as their spouses move out-of-state to new military assignments.

“I’m loving what I do now, working for a non-profit, but not everyone is flexible in their skills, talent, or desire to work in another career field, especially after they already invested in obtaining a professional license or credential,” Lankford said.

This reluctance by many spouses, coupled with the fear of employers who may not want to invest in hiring an employee who will probably move in two or three years, can deprive the community of a talented and uniquely qualified workforce. This is especially true at schools in military communities.

“We have a lot of military children here,” said Dale Pfister, principal of Syracuse Arts Academy. “It’s helpful to have teachers who can relate to them and have been through the same experiences. Military spouses also bring a depth and breadth of life experience to the classroom and to the workplace. Educators are in short supply and this new law should help here in Utah.”

According to Utah’s Department of Workforce Services, military members and their spouses can visit their website https://jobs.utah.gov/jobseeker/veterans for more detailed information on employment and licensing requirements in Utah. There are specialists available who work with military members and their spouses to find employment and navigate credentialing.

Gary Harter, executive director of Utah’s Department of Military and Veteran’s Affairs, said there are thousands of highly skilled military spouses in the state and the state wants them to be successful in the workforce. The bill had broad support in both the legislature and business community, he said.

“This bill is indicative of what Utah does best, and the result is a great outcome for military spouses. Together an issue was identified, discussed and a solution was put in place,” said Utah Governor Gary Herbert. “I am proud of all who worked on this, it was a pleasure to work with the military spouses who championed this and an honor to work with Senator Weiler who led it. We look forward to continuing to work on efforts that are important for the military in our state.”

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