February 29th, 2024

kelly veterans roundtableGov. Laura Kelly (far right) and Merit International CEO Tomer Kagan (far left) listen as Perry Wiggins, executive director of the Governor’s Military Council (center), gives some remarks at a recent roundtable regarding veterans in the workforce. Courtesy photoELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times


Helping veterans has been a part of much of the Kelly Administration’s work, and recently, more assistance was announced from the State of Kansas. 

Last Thursday, Gov. Laura Kelly joined leaders and advocates for military families for a roundtable discussion focused on how Kansas can continue its progress in knocking down barriers for military families looking to participate in the workforce. Topics addressed during the discussion included barriers to occupational licensure and the importance of expanding child care, according to a release from the State of Kansas. 

“As the daughter of a Purple Heart recipient, I know military personnel and their spouses are exactly the type of people we need in Kansas to fill the jobs we’ve created in recent years,” Gov. Kelly noted in the State of Kansas release. “My administration will always prioritize fostering a thriving workforce for Kansans and will continue knocking down the barriers military families face to getting and keeping a job.”

The recent legislation is not the first work with veterans that has come to the Kelly Administration. In 2021, Gov. Kelly signed bipartisan House Bill 2066, which expedites the issuance of occupational credentials to military service members and military spouses seeking to establish residency in Kansas, making it easier for military spouses to transition into the Kansas workforce and spur new economic development. Then, in October, a national coalition of military advocacy groups launched Alliance for States Providing Interoperable Reciprocity (ASPIRE) to accelerate military reciprocity by and between states, making obtaining a license in a state to which military personnel and their families are deployed easier. ASPIRE representatives, including Terron Sims II, U.S. Army Veteran and Merit Advisor on Military Affairs, participated in the roundtable and discussed potential technological solutions, according to the State of Kansas release. 

“Today, we are at a critical juncture where we have both sound policy and a sound tool to improve the lives of Kansas' military families,” Sims noted in the State of Kansas release. “It is incumbent upon us all to work together - to cut through the red tape and merge these two together to get the job done.”

Discussion also included ways Kansas can further promote workforce participation for veterans. Veterans like Ginger Miller, President and CEO of the Women Veterans Interactive Foundation, shared their stories.

“As a veteran and a military spouse, I know first-hand the challenges of transitioning to civilian life and getting into the workforce. My husband, who struggled with severe PTSD, my son and I were homeless,” Miller noted in the State of Kansas release. “I was ashamed to ask for help. I had to work three jobs while attending school full time to pull us up. Often women veterans carry an extra heavy burden. That’s why we are proud to partner with the private sector, other NGOs and solution-oriented leaders like Governor Laura Kelly to make it easier for veterans and military families who give so much to our country to get back to the workforce earn a sustainable income and fulfill their life promise.”

In September Gov. Kelly announced the creation of the new Office of Registered Apprenticeship, which will expand and modernize apprenticeship programs in the state, with a particular focus on veterans and other underrepresented groups. The Office of Registered Apprenticeship will evaluate and report annually on the extent, quality and impact of registered apprenticeships in Kansas, develop strategies to modernize the registered apprenticeship program to include additional industries such as healthcare, IT, agricultural manufacturing, and distribution and logistics – all critical segments in the Kansas economy, and develop and advocate for registered apprenticeship program policies that place a special focus on veterans, women, people of color, those formerly incarcerated and others with barriers to successful employment.

““We have spurred remarkable economic growth here in Kansas, but to continue that success, we have to ensure Kansas workers have the skills and opportunities they need to compete in today’s global economy,” Gov. Kelly noted in the September State of Kansas release. “I created this new Office of Registered Apprenticeship to prioritize fostering a workforce that meets the needs of Kansas businesses and of essential industries like education and healthcare. Registered Apprenticeship programs are a key workforce development tool for this administration and the Kansas Department of Commerce.”

“The Office of Registered Apprenticeship is a key part of our strategy to develop the workforce that Kansas companies need,” Toland noted in the September State of Kansas release. “Engaging and partnering with businesses to provide on-the-job training allows for a more highly skilled and qualified workforce, which in turn reduces turnover rates and recruitment costs while increasing productivity.”

The Kelly Administration, in collaboration with the Commission on Veterans Affairs, has also created KanVet.org, a Web site for veterans to access employment resources and opportunities in Kansas.