SALT LAKE CITY — Military training and work experience will now help veterans qualify for expedited licensing, certification and college degrees through a program announced by Utah officials this week.

By allowing veterans to forgo often redundant training for professional and technical jobs, the state is removing one of the most significant barriers to gainful employment after enlisted service ends, said Col. Scot Olson of the Utah National Guard.

Part of the problem is that some employers consider military service to be a "gap in work history," Olson said. But it can also be hard for veterans to explain their jobs in civilian terms.

"Military members have skills that are proven on the battlefield and in harsh environments," Olson said. "They can talk about those skills and their jobs with other military people, but they often find it difficult to explain it to others."

The program was developed by the Department of Workforce Services over the course of about three months, said Kristen Cox, the agency's executive director.

Essentially, the program will allow veterans to qualify for licenses based on their military experience. For example, a person who was a medic in the military wouldn't have to go through additional training to become an emergency medical technician.

"It's silly that we haven't been doing this," Cox said. "We owe it to veterans. It just makes sense."

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Along with licensing, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert is urging state colleges to grant class credits based on military experience to help veterans re-enter the workforce with a minimal amount of difficulty.

"There is no way we can thank veterans enough," Herbert said. "But we can at least help them find a good job."

The state effort to help veterans find employment dovetails with a federal program announced earlier this year by President Barack Obama that includes tax credits for employers hiring veterans.