Expo seeks to match vets with jobs
by: Troops to Trades
August 25, 2016
By Nick Hedrick
As a disabled veteran, Martina Hull knows the barriers returning service members face trying to re-enter the civilian workforce.
Hull’s ankle was removed due to injuries she suffered while serving in the Marine Corps. She’s now a peer mentor for InteCare’s Supportive Services for Veteran Families, a federally funded program serving low-income families who are homeless or at risk of losing their homes.
“I kind of know the whole gambit,” she said. “I’ve been on both sides of that coin.”
InteCare SSVF was among the agencies represented at a veterans expo Wednesday at VFW Post 972. The post joined Work One and the Indiana Rural Health Association to sponsor the event.
Local companies and law enforcement agencies were on hand with employment opportunities and veterans organizations promoted services for mental health and other needs.
The Hoosier unemployment rate for all veterans in 2015 averaged 2.4 percent, according to the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee. That’s better than the national average of 4.6 percent.
Job prospects were better for post-9/11 veterans in Indiana last year, when the unemployment rate averaged 1.4 percent. The average national rate was 5.8 percent.
The overall unemployment rate for Indiana improved to 4.5 percent from 6 percent in 2015, and hovered around 5 percent nationwide.
While the employment outlook seems bright for Hoosier veterans, service members often still find themselves oddly overqualified because military skills don’t always easily translate to civilian markets.
Disabled veterans are particularly underemployed, Hull said, because they’re unable to stand on their feet for long periods in manufacturing jobs.
“There’s a lot of positions available that veterans could fill if reasonable accommodations were made,” she said.
Mental health and criminal issues also often prevent veterans from landing a job, said Steven Large, a local veteran employment representative for Work One Western Indiana.
Large’s job is to help veterans connect with area resources to help them find employment.
“The veteran is more dedicated, already trained… in certain fields, dependable,” he said.
Veterans make up 20 percent of GE Aviation’s production workforce, said Nancy Hults, a human resources leader. Hults said the company benefits from the values of teamwork instilled in military personnel.
“We definitely value our veterans,” said Hults, waiting for prospective employees at the company’s booth.
Lawmakers can help put more veterans — and everyone else — back to work by trying to improve the overall economy, said U.S. Rep. Larry Buchson, R-Newburgh, who visited the expo.
Buchson said reforming the nation’s tax code and easing federal regulations will allow manufacturers to hire more workers.
To VFW post quartermaster Darrel Knight, the solution for improving veterans’ job prospects is simple: Consider them first when making hiring decisions.
“We know that they have good work ethic for the most part,” Knight said.