INDIANAPOLIS - Top Indiana House members say they want the new statewide jobs council they’re working to launch to place a special emphasis on chipping into military veterans’ high unemployment rate.
More than 20 percent of the veterans who entered military service after Sept. 11, 2001, are out of work, said House Speaker Brian Bosma, the Indianapolis Republican who is working on the issue with House Minority Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City.
Pelath called that unemployment rate "a deep point of national sadness," and said addressing it is a "sacred responsibility." He mentioned two veterans who are his neighbors.
"Their lives have not been that easy. All they want is to live their lives with dignity and honor, and after they’ve served us with dignity and honor, they deserve the chance to do that. We need to do better for them," Pelath said.
The two are co-sponsoring a bill, approved unanimously by the House on Tuesday, that would launch the Indiana Careers Council -- a panel led by the governor and including business and education leaders as well as the state’s economic development team.
Bosma said the measure -- House Bill 1002 -- is an attempt to increase collaboration across agencies and universities that already have their own workforce training and job recruitment efforts.
Right now, those existing programs "aren’t necessarily linked, they aren’t coordinated, data isn’t necessarily shared," Bosma said.
"It’s our hope -- the authors’ hope -- with Career Council that we have the key players at the table, that data is shared, that overall vision is set and inventory is taken," he said, "so that we know where all these programs are."
Indiana National Guard Brig. Gen. Brian R. Copes said its members are already participating in a series of programs aimed at preparing veterans to return to the workforce -- and that businesses that hire those veterans won’t be sorry.
"If you’re going to hire someone anyway, we ask you to consider hiring a veteran," he said. "You’re going to get a good, solid employee -- somebody that’s not afraid of hard work; somebody that has the old-fashioned work ethic."
The measure to launch the Indiana Careers Council now heads to the Senate.