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Witness Testimony of Mark W. Everson, Commissioner, Indiana Department of Workforce Development, Indianapolis, IN

Introduction

Mr. Chairman and Ranking Member Braley, I appreciate the opportunity to appear before you to discuss veteran employment issues in the state of Indiana.  Providing employment and training services to veterans is among the highest priorities of the Department of Workforce Development in Indiana, where the U.S. Census Bureau has estimated that just below 10 percent of the adult population are veterans, with over half of those between the ages of 18 and 65.  My testimony will provide a brief overview of Indiana’s economy and employment outlook, and a summary of Indiana’s workforce investment system and programs.  I will also provide data regarding the characteristics of Indiana’s veterans and share a summary of the employment and training programs made available to veterans around the state, and specifically in northeast Indiana.

Indiana Economic Profile

Indiana’s labor force is approximately 3.1 million, down from just over 3.2 million in the summer of 2007.   The state’s unemployment rate peaked in June 2009 at 10.9 percent. Since that time, the unemployment rate has fallen to just below 9.0 percent.

In January 2010, over 271,000 Hoosiers collected unemployment insurance benefits from either state or federal programs.  Since that date, the number of Hoosiers collecting benefits has declined to approximately 115,000 at present. 

Private sector employment in Indiana is estimated at 2.4 million jobs. Significant sectors include manufacturing (19.0 percent of private employment), along with private education and health services (18.3 percent), trade (17.4 percent), and professional and business services (11.7 percent). The importance of manufacturing to the state’s economy is hard to overstate because of historically high wages in the sector.  The government sector employs over 400,000 Hoosiers.

Employment projections for the state indicate that employment opportunities in the future will be found in health care, transportation, and professional, scientific and technical areas.  Indiana will need to continue to develop a skilled workforce to meet the demands of employers.

Northeast Indiana Economic Profile

DWD defines northeast Indiana (Economic Growth Region 3) as the geographic area including the following counties:  Adams, Allen, DeKalb, Grant, Huntington, LaGrange, Noble, Steuben, Wabash, Wells, and Whitley.  It is home to nearly 364,000 workers.  The primary employment sectors within northeast Indiana are manufacturing (including the defense industry), private education and health services, professional and business services, trade, and agriculture. 

Northeast Indiana’s economy has been historically characterized by a relatively large number of high-paying manufacturing jobs.  As has been seen in many parts of the United States, northeast Indiana was significantly impacted by the loss of a number of these jobs.  However, over the last year, northeast Indiana has seen an uptick in its overall employment outlook.  The unemployment rate for the region has decreased by nearly two percentage points to 8.9 percent, and employers have slowly begun to increase employment numbers.  Current employment projections for the area indicate that both short and long term employment opportunities will be found in a range of manufacturing-related occupations (due primarily to retirements) and in health care.  The area also has potential growth in sectors such as business and financial services, transportation and material moving, and construction occupations.  DWD and its WorkOne centers recognize the need to develop a skilled workforce in northeast Indiana that can meet the demands of these growing sectors.

Indiana Veterans

The American Community Survey (ACS) is an ongoing statistical survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau.  The information gathered includes employment status, income, veteran status, education level, and disability information.  For 2010, ACS estimates Indiana is home to approximately 469,600 veterans, or nearly 10 percent of its adult population.  However, almost 200,000 Indiana veterans are over 65 and generally not in the workforce. Veterans ages 18 to 65 years total approximately 276,600.  Veterans between the ages of 18 and 34 total approximately 30,500; between the ages of 35 and 54 total approximately 126,800; and between the ages of 55 and 64 total approximately 119,300.  94.4 percent of Indiana’s veterans are male and 5.6 percent are female.

According to ACS, the 2010 unemployment rate among Indiana’s veterans was 12.4 percent, compared with the total state unemployment rate of 10.7 percent during the same time period.  There are approximately 3,300 veterans collecting benefits at present. Almost 12,000 veterans have collected benefits over the past twelve months. 

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recently conducted a survey that indicated, among other findings, that the unemployment rate of Gulf War II era veterans 18 years or older in the State of Indiana was 23.6 percent.  Beyond the overall results of this survey, BLS has not provided any information on the survey’s methodology nor the specific data that were collected.  DWD believes this figure is overstated.  It is our view that unemployment among these veterans is somewhat but not dramatically higher than that of the workforce as a whole.

Additionally, ACS indicates that the education level of Indiana’s veterans tends to be higher than that of civilians, with the exception of those that have obtained a bachelor’s degree or higher.  18.7 percent of Indiana’s veterans have obtained a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared with 23.2 percent of the non-veteran population.  In addition, according to ACS, in 2010 a smaller percentage of Indiana’s veterans (7.4 percent) lived below the poverty level than the non-veteran population (13.8 percent), but a higher percentage of Indiana’s veterans had a disability (26.1 percent) than the non-veteran population (14.3 percent).

Indiana Workforce Investment System and Programs

DWD is the state agency that oversees and manages unemployment insurance compensation and federally-funded employment and training programs in Indiana.  DWD manages federally-funded Workforce Investment Act, Wagner-Peyser Act, Trade Adjustment Assistance, Adult Education, and Veterans Employment and Training programs.  DWD receives 100 percent of the budget for its education and training programs from federal funds made available through the United States Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration, with the exception of the Adult Education program, for which we receive both state and federal funds.

Like all other states, Indiana is divided into a number of local service areas, which provide federally-funded employment and training services through a network of One-Stops (called WorkOne centers in Indiana).  There are twelve local service areas, operating within 11 economic growth regions, and 90 WorkOne centers throughout the regions.

Each of the local service areas is governed by a workforce board, comprised of local business leaders, economic development professionals, labor and education representatives, and other community-based organization leaders.  These boards hire staff and service-provider organizations to manage the WorkOne centers and to offer workforce investment services in collaboration with the staff of DWD.

All customers who visit a WorkOne center are offered access to services that assist them in gaining the skills necessary to become reemployed at a self-sufficient level, and will provide the customer with support throughout his or her period of unemployment.  Specifically, WorkOne centers provide customers with access to unemployment insurance compensation, case management and career counseling, job search assistance, skill-building workshops, short and long-term training, as well as other supportive services.  All enrolled WorkOne customers are placed into one of two tracks:  the job-to-job track, where staff provide the customer with reemployment assistance; or the job-to-training-to-job track, where it is determined that the client needs additional training in order to become employed at a self-sufficient level. 

DWD also places a high emphasis on making on-the-job training available to eligible, unemployed workers.  Through on-the-job training, an unemployed worker is hired by an employer, and provided training on the specific skills needed to successfully perform the job.  Since 2009, DWD has invested nearly $6 million in on-the-job training, based on the belief that it is beneficial to both of its primary customers: unemployed individuals and employers.  Unemployed individuals are provided with a job and the opportunity to learn new skills and employers are reimbursed for up to 50 percent of the participant’s wages over a six month period in order to compensate for training costs.  

In addition to the services made available to unemployed customers, WorkOne centers also offer a number of services to local employers, including job matching, job profiling, management of large hiring events, information regarding employment-based tax credits, and on-the-job training funds as just indicated.   DWD provides annual funds which support a number of business services staff, who are responsible for connecting with local employers and providing them with no-cost, workforce services.

Indiana Veteran Employment and Training Services

Indiana is committed to providing quality employment services to veterans at its WorkOne centers.  Veterans receive priority service, and most of the centers have an on-site veteran specialist who assists with employment needs.  DWD currently receives funding to employ sixty-two Veteran Employment and Training staff throughout Indiana.  Thirty-four of these positions are Local Veteran Employment Representatives (LVER) and twenty-eight of these positions are Disabled Veteran Outreach Program Specialists (DVOP).  All of the LVERs are required to be veterans and DVOPs must be veterans with a service-connected disability.

Services that are provided to eligible veterans at WorkOne centers include:

  • Orientation to IndianaCAREERConnect.com, the State’s largest jobs-board;
  • Assistance looking for a job, developing a resume, and preparing for an interview;
  • Direct referral to jobs;
  • Referral to other federal, state and local agencies (as appropriate to their self-sufficiency needs);
  • Assistance transitioning into civilian employment;
  • Training incentives and grants; 
  • Guidance finding vocational training; 
  • Post-employment counseling; and 
  • Occupational skills assessment.

In order to ensure that veterans receive access to skill-building activities and training, DWD has pursued a number of special employment and training grants.  Indiana was awarded and is currently managing a special Veterans Workforce Investment Program Grant.  This United States Department of Labor grant of $500,000, which was supplemented with $250,000 from DWD, is designed to provide training that results in industry-recognized certifications to veterans with service-connected disabilities, veterans that have significant barriers to employment, and all recently separated veterans.  Additionally, for all training programs overseen and managed by DWD, eligible veterans are provided with priority of service.  This priority ensures that veterans are provided with first access to skill-building training when funds or available training slots are limited.

Additionally, DWD ensures that veterans are provided with priority of service in its job matching program.  Veterans are provided with first access to open positions posted on IndianaCareerConnect.com; the open positions are held for twenty-four hours, allowing only qualified veterans to apply.

DWD recognizes the barriers that returning veterans face when attempting to access services, locate suitable employment, and reenter the civilian workforce.  In order to assist returning veterans in accessing services, DWD has positioned a LVER at Camp Atterbury to assist demobilizing National Guard and Reserve personnel. This LVER provides service members with employment information during their demobilization.  In addition, the LVER collects individual employment information, and then provides it to the service member’s state employment agency. DWD also continues to support the National Guard Yellow Ribbon Transition Programs around the State and at the two National Guard Air Bases.  Although demobilizations have decreased in their frequency and size, DWD remains committed to providing employment services to this program. Since January 2010, several thousand soldiers and airman have received employment information through Camp Atterbury and/or participated in a Yellow Ribbon Program.

Finally, in order to assist veterans with locating suitable employment, DWD has supported and managed several career fairs specifically targeted to veterans.  In April 2011, DWD sponsored “Operation Hire a Hoosier Veteran” career fair in Central Indiana.  Over 100 employers and vendors participated in this career fair, and several hundred Indiana veterans attended the fair and had the opportunity to network with employers, submit resumes and applications for job openings, interview for positions, and attend skill-building workshops offered by DWD staff.  

From July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2011, over 20,000 veterans were provided with employment and training services in the state of Indiana through WorkOne centers.

Northeast Indiana Veteran Employment and Training Services

Approximately 32,000 veterans, age 18 to 65, live in northeast Indiana, representing nearly 12 percent of Indiana’s working-age veterans.  This number continues to grow as veterans return from Iraq and Afghanistan.  There is a great need to ensure veterans in the region receive job training opportunities that will help them develop the skills required to find civilian employment. 

Over the past year, WorkOne offices in northeast Indiana have conducted a comprehensive outreach campaign to veterans and veteran-serving organizations in the region.  This campaign has had a singular mission: to increase the number of veterans engaged in workforce services.  Activities included outreach efforts at Veteran’s Administration locations that provided on-site delivery of a wide range of job-search workshops (resume writing, interview skills, and online job searches); outreach efforts to regional homeless facilities, including the Fort Wayne Rescue Mission; and monthly outreach efforts to regional veteran’s organizations (VFW, American Legion, and others) to ensure that the veterans community is prepared to identify and refer veterans in need of assistance to WorkOne Northeast for services.

Additionally, a military career fair was recently held in northeast Indiana that focused on supporting reservists/guardsmen and veterans.  At this event, a dozen human resources professionals from regional employers were brought together to share information about available job openings and to offer advice and instruction to veterans in attendance on the best ways to access these opportunities.  This event had the full support of the Wing Commander and his staff and will be replicated in other events.

In the past year, WorkOne centers in northeast Indiana provided employment and training services to approximately 3,000 veterans.  Significantly, nearly 25 percent of these veterans received training to improve their technical skills, and increase their prospects for gainful employment.  Also, during the same time period, veterans served through the WorkOne Northeast centers received approximately 5,000 referrals for potential employment, and were provided with career counseling support by WorkOne staff on approximately 2,000 occasions.  The focus of this career counseling has been to help veterans understand and appreciate the transferability of their military skill sets to the civilian labor market. 

Northeast Indiana meets or exceeds performance targets established for Veterans Employment and Training programs by the United States Department of Labor.  During the current program year, WorkOne centers in northeast Indiana exceeded nearly all of their performance targets.  For example, the Consolidate Veteran Entered Employment Rate was 61 percent, which exceeded the target by 11 percent, and the Consolidated Veterans Average Earnings was $30,060 annually.

Challenges Affecting Veteran Employment Opportunities

DWD believes that there are four primary challenges veterans encounter regarding employment opportunities.  First, veterans have predominantly been employed in industries among the hardest hit by the economic recession.  According to a report issued by the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee Chairman’s staff on May 2011, post- 9/11 veterans were more likely than non-veterans to have been employed in manufacturing, construction, transportation, and other industries that experienced significant job losses during 2008 and 2009.  DWD agrees with this finding. Veterans continue to struggle with securing gainful employment, especially in the manufacturing sector, which is down about 18 percent from its peak employment in 2007.  While veterans from the Guard or Reserves receive statutory protection to retain their pre-deployment position upon completion of their deployment, if an employer’s workforce has been downsized due to layoffs, the returning veteran may not always find a job upon return.

The second challenge deals with the skills veterans develop while serving in the military and their ability to translate those skills into private sector employment.  DWD has found that some of the skills veterans develop do not always directly correlate to certifications and credentials often required for private employment.  For example, a veteran may have operated heavy equipment and vehicles during his or her service, but does not hold a commercial drivers license that is often a requirement for operating heavy transportation vehicles in private sector employment.  Additionally, DWD has found that many veterans experience difficulty expressing what specific skills they acquired throughout their service, and how those skills transfer to the requirements of private sector job openings.  Many veterans are modest about their service, and particularly the skills and aptitudes they developed while serving.  Although a veteran may have developed and utilized essential job skills, his or her inability to relate those skills to the requirements of a job opening can lead a hiring manager to not fully appreciate the skills a veteran has to offer.

Third, while a veteran is deployed overseas, a number of facets of his or her home life may have changed.  Some of these changes can include the birth of a child, the loss of a family member, or even the dissolution of a marriage.  In addition, returning veterans may need to locate a place to live, establish bank accounts, locate transportation, and complete many other daily activities for which they may not have been responsible during their service. These factors often complicate the job search process, which may be given less initial priority by the veteran.

Finally, there is an increasing number of veterans returning with some form of a physical or mental disability.  With advances in medical care, fatalities have declined but an increasing percentage of veterans return home with a physical disability potentially limiting future employment opportunities.  In addition, there are incidences of mental health issues, including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), among the veteran population returning from abroad.  In DWD’s experience, Indiana’s employers have displayed a great willingness to provide employment opportunities to veterans who have served the United States.  However, some employers may be somewhat cautious in hiring veterans due to concerns about how PTSD or other mental health issues may affect performance in the workplace.

Conclusion

Mr. Chairman, we at the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, recognize our obligation to veterans and honor their service to our country.  We will continue to make every resource available to veterans, ensuring they receive the services needed to best overcome any barriers to employment opportunities they may face.  

Thank you for allowing me to appear before you today.  I would be pleased to respond to any questions from members of the Subcommittee.