Great Falls Tribune: Bill would help vets’ transition to civilian workforce

When Army Capt. Nate Wiens returned to Montana after nearly five years as an engineer in Iraq and elsewhere, he thought his training in a war zone would be prized on the job market.

It wasn’t.

In fact, it didn’t even count when it came to qualifying for an engineering license in his home state, which requires four years of on-the-job training.

Wiens was flabbergasted. No one in the military told the Glasgow native — who graduated from Montana State University-Bozeman with a civil engineering degree — that his military service wouldn’t matter in the civilian world. After all, he was overseeing crews as large as 120 people on projects being undertaken in some of the world’s most dangerous corners.

He finally found work about a year ago with Advanced Engineering and Environmental Services in Great Falls. Even so, his lack of professional certification means he can’t be a project manager, produce his own plans or sign off on plan specifications. He will probably have to wait three more years before he can take the test to apply for a license.

“I was pretty frustrated. It just seems like people don’t get it,” Wiens, 31, said of his situation. He said the message it sends is: “‘Yeah, you went in with an engineering degree, but when you get out, you need to do something else.”

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