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Survey finds pathways exist for military spouse careers

CHEYENNE — The Legislature has made removing barriers to military spouses working in the state a top priority for the interim.

But it turns out Wyoming has already made it a relatively painless process.

Earlier this summer, the Joint Transportation, Highways and Military Affairs Interim Committee asked for a survey on how the various licensing boards across Wyoming accommodate military spouses.

The survey was conducted by the Wyoming Real Estate Commission. It found the vast majority of the state’s 35 licensing boards already have considerations in place to help spouses of military personnel who have been transferred to F.E. Warren Air Force Base, the only active military base in the state.

Those considerations range from creating temporary licenses while formal applications are being processed to waiving licensure fees for spouses, said Nicole Novotny Smith, executive director of the Wyoming Real Estate Commission. The ability to apply for licensure or certification online has also created opportunities for military spouses to begin the process to continue their careers before they relocate to Wyoming.

The instances where a board or commission hasn’t created expedited processes or temporary licenses were due to the very specific nature of the information needed to secure certification, Novotny Smith said.

“Five boards and commissions explained they have standard licensure processes for all applicants because of the unique nature of their industry,” Novotny Smith said. “One of those boards was the Board of Outfitters. They explained because of their uniqueness of the process, it’s really difficult for them to recognize another state’s license, though they try their best to.”

Tammie Perreault, the Department of Defense’s Northwest regional liaison, said the issue of spouses being able to continue their careers even during transfers was a critical component in the military retaining servicemen and women. According to the DOD’s own research, 68% of married service members in Wyoming reported their spouse’s ability to maintain a career would affect their decision to remain in the military.

And 34% of service members with spouses said their partners required occupational licenses for them to maintain employment. That equals out to about 575 of the 1,689 active duty spouses in Wyoming.

Wyoming has already done a lot with the ability to use temporary licenses to streamline the process, Perreault said. But sometimes it can be difficult in the midst of a move across the country where spouses are getting children into school and figuring out housing for them to have all the documentation they need readily available.

The Legislature has been considering creating some action to address a potential issue since December 2018, when the issue was brought up during the interim process.

But upon further digging, the Transportation Committee decided Monday not to work on any potential legislation. That doesn’t preclude some further tightening of different licensure boards in the future, but the need for blanket direction didn’t seem to exist, according to members of the committee.

The reason why Wyoming seems to be amenable to military spouses is the work the state did back in 2003, when it directed commissioners and professional licensure boards to create rules and exceptions to allow military spouses an easier time to transfer into the state.

In the committee’s discussion Monday, members of the Wyoming Military Department said they had reached out to F.E. Warren, and said they weren’t hearing of any significant issues with spouses being able to work right away.