Veterans' unemployment target of new Indiana jobs panel


With one in five Indiana veterans looking for jobs, lawmakers are working together on a new effort to hire American heroes.

A proposed bill would open a new statewide career council.  It's aimed at coordinating an array of job training and placement programs, making it easier to put military veterans and others back to work.

Michael Simmons survived battles in Iraq and Afghanistan, then came home to fight for work.

"I haven't been able to get anything solid since I got out of the Army," he said. That was six years ago.

Last year we found Simmons in an Ivy Tech class room, studying for an information technology degree and trying to escape the low-paying jobs he'd  been working.  Since then, Simmons dropped out. Needing money, he returned to Afghanistan working as a private security guard. He's home again looking for a civilian job.

Simmons says it feels like he's treading water.

"It's a kick in the face, a slap in the face," he said.

Many of the employees at DAO Recycling, on the Indianapolis near east side, know the feeling. Forty percent of them are veterans.

The Air Force trained Anthony Kerstiens to be a heavy mechanic. Employers passed him over. He didn't have the necessary tools and civilian technical school training.

"I don't see the point of having to pay thousands of dollars for a piece of payer saying I know how to do something that I know how to do. That doesn't make a lot of sense," he said.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics says 10 percent of the nation's post 9-11 veterans can't find work. In Indiana, officials say veteran unemployment is twice as high at 20 percent. It's not for a lack of effort.

By some estimates there are dozens of government agencies as well as private organizations and entities working to recycle veterans out of the military, into education programs an onto job.

DAO makes hiring vets a priority. Executive Craig Triscari says assistance programs compete too often and communicate too little. A retired lieutenant colonel, even he gets confused.

"It is frustrating to go through some of the programs, even with an individual that has several degrees, to understand what you need to weave in and out of," he said.

The current system some say creates a web of bureaucracy for veterans to fight through.

House Bill 1002 is aimed at improving the coordination and communication among Indiana's workforce training efforts. That includes education, business, the military, veterans groups and others

Today the house unanimously approved another bill (HB 1046) allowing veterans to more easily transfer their military EMT and Paramedic training toward civilian certifications needed to get jobs at home.

Michael Simmons hasn't given up.  He intends to complete his IT degree, and enroll in a carpentry training program.

About the bill

House Speaker Brian Bosma says the bill establishing the Indiana Career Council was amended to include a requirement that it involve military and veterans organizations as its proposals are developed.

Indiana National Guard Brig. Gen. Brian Copes says it now has several programs to assist veterans but appreciates more help in trying to find jobs for them.

The House is considering a bill to create the career council gathering government, education and business leaders to study the state's workforce training programs and available jobs.