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Witness Testimony of Mark A. Dobson, President, Warsaw-Kosciusko County Chamber of Commerce, Warsaw, IN

The attached document reflects the information obtained by the Warsaw-Kosciusko County Chamber of Commerce in relation to Veteran’s Unemployment.  Nearly 30 businesses and a local College contributed to the information obtained.  The consistent messages heard from businesses regarding barriers to employing veterans were:

  • ECONOMIC CONSTRAINTS CAUSED BY A SAGGING ECONOMY
  • LACK OF BUSINESS ENGAGEMENT WITH MILITARY
  • TRANSITIONAL TRAINING FOR VETERANS

There are rolls and responsibilities for all of us in resolving this issue.  Chambers of Commerce across the Country are an invaluable resource to help solve the challenge.  A higher level of engagement by interested parties is needed to ensure that Veterans are seen as the very valuable employment resource they are.  The testimony given today will outline a few steps we believe will help break down barriers for our Country’s brightest and best.


Good Morning.  Congressman Stutzman & Honorable members in attendance today - thank you for holding this Congressional Sub-Committee hearing in Ft. Wayne.  That you hold this hearing shows our Veterans how much America values their service to our Country.  I am humbled and honored to be here to speak on this most important issue. 

The issue of Veterans’ Unemployment is one that distresses all of us.  Our Country’s brightest and best have given of themselves so that we may continue to enjoy the freedoms granted to us by our forefathers.  They have stepped forward and heeded the call to duty.  For that we are all grateful.  And so now we are compelled to do all we can to ensure Veterans take their rightful place in the private sector.

The dichotomy here is that Veterans desire no special treatment.  They do not wish to have opportunity handed to them.  They, more than any of us in the room, understand what America stands for.  They will carve a significant path in society.  It is our duty to help break down any barriers and help our Veterans transition to the private sector. 

With these thoughts in mind I contacted businesses in Kosciusko County to gain a deeper understanding of the barriers and challenges of hiring Veterans.  Input was received from nearly 30 businesses.  Additionally Grace College’s Assistant Registrar / Veterans Services Officer provided invaluable information that helped form the basis of my testimony today.

The consistent feedback received from our Business Community is the gratefulness for the Veterans military service.  All expressed their appreciation for our Veterans.  Additionally, comments indicated that many companies value the specialized training obtained in the military.  They value the discipline and level of responsibility that a former serviceman displays on the job. 

So, we dug deeper to understand why there is an unemployment issue.  I believe it breaks down into three main categories:

  • ECONOMIC CONSTRAINTS CAUSED BY A SAGGING ECONOMY
  • LACK OF BUSINESS ENGAGEMENT WITH MILITARY
  • TRANSITIONAL TRAINING FOR VETERANS

The Economic Constraints are reflected by the state of our economy today.  Sustained unemployment continues to be near historical highs.  Additionally, the uncertainty of the economy has companies putting off hiring decisions until there is a clear direction which way we are headed.  In a climate where unemployment averages over 9%, job seekers see greater competition for any available opening.  Arguably the training received in the military is a competitive advantage.  But that advantage is diminished by the large number of people seeking the same job.

The Private Sector’s engagement with the military is an additional challenge.  Businesses do not have Knowledge of the availability of Veterans.  Or the contact points to know where to find available Veterans.  They don’t know when a Vet will be available for employment.  When a deployment ends, or a Veteran retires, the private sector is unaware of their availability.  Or the notice comes after significant hiring decisions have been completed.

Finally, another consistent comment was that while Veterans’ training is excellent, the transitional skills are not up to par.  Quite often Veterans need assistance with Resume Development, Interviewing Skills, & Transitional Job Training.  Some military functions are easily relatable to their civilian counterparts.  It is easy to understand what skills a Military Aircraft Mechanic might bring to the table.  But some Military duties are hard to translate to the private sector.  If the job description from the military has one “blowing up stuff”, the private sector employer may not understand how they can use those same skills. 

So what can we do to help?  The United States has transitional programs available to their Veterans – but we can all do more:

  1. The Post 9/11 GI Bill is a wonderful program to help transition Veterans to the private sector.  However, how much more effective would that program be if there was engagement with Community Development entities.  Chambers of Commerce, Economic Development Agencies, WorkOne’s and other entities charged with community development are the best resources for understanding the job market in a particular community.  As an example, our Chamber maintains a jobs database, has a partnership arrangement for assisting with placement of trailing spouses, and routinely surveys the business community to understand what skills are needed in the workforce.  So, if one were to characterize the needs in Kosciusko County, there is a strong need for advanced production workers, skilled machinists, advanced welding, and bio-engineers.  We are the Orthopedic Capital of the World, home to the largest screen manufacturer in the world, and are one of Indiana’s most productive agricultural regions.  Think of what a useful resource we can be for those who council Veterans on what skills they should train for with their GI Bill for jobs in Kosciusko County.  We recommend that those engaged in transitioning Veterans become involved with entities such as ours at a greater level.
  1. Advance communications with entities such as the local Chambers when deployments are ending – or there are significant numbers of Veterans returning to our community.  The sooner we can communicate with our local businesses, the better prepared the business community will be to assist with employment issues.  I acknowledge this is a challenge.  The military doesn’t want to divulge when troops will be leaving a region.  But businesses make large hiring decisions up to a year in advance.  Better lead times mean a better chance that businesses will look to the pool of returning Vets as potential hires.
  1. The US Chamber has launched the Hiring Our Heroes initiative.  This initiative is a commitment by the US Chamber & Local Chambers throughout the Country to connect 100,000 veterans and their spouses to jobs through local Chambers in 100 communities throughout the Country.  Our Chamber will be hosting such a job fair in early 2012.  So, we should ask, how strong is the relationship between those who help Veterans transition to the private sector & the Chambers of Commerce throughout the United States?  Are Chambers looked to as a resource for those involved with Veteran transition as a resource to help?  Chambers exist because we serve our members.  One of the most important things we do is engage on Workforce issues.

I want to thank this committee for hearing testimony today.  As I said before, I am honored to speak on this issue.  Simple words of appreciation cannot express the gratitude I feel for those who chose to protect our freedoms.  I was taught that actions speak louder than words.  It is only through action can we all truly express our gratitude to those who have defended our freedoms.

Respectfully submitted.