INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A plan aimed at matching up Indiana's workforce training programs with available jobs unanimously cleared the state House on Tuesday, as legislators from both parties embraced it as a possible way to help lower the state's stubborn unemployment rate.
House members stood and applauded after approving the bill that is co-sponsored by Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma and Democratic House leader Scott Pelath.
The plan would create a 16-member Indiana Career Council led by the governor with officials from state agencies and Ivy Tech Community College and other education and business leaders. It would be tasked with preparing this year a plan for matching up the state's training programs and available jobs.
Legislative leaders said they hoped the council will help focus efforts aimed at reducing the state's high jobless rate among military veterans.
Bosma said the state has many job training programs going on in different agencies that aren't coordinated.
"It's our hope with the career council that we have the key players at the table, that data is shared, that overall vision is set and inventory is taken," said Bosma, R-Indianapolis.
Indiana's unemployment rate has hovered around 8 percent over the last year, even as Indiana-based companies say they have plenty of jobs available. The "skills gap" — the difference between the skills those jobs require and the training that job seekers have received in school and previous jobs — is something Gov. Mike Pence brought up throughout last year's gubernatorial campaign.
The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.
Bosma and Pelath gathered Tuesday with several Indiana National Guard officials to highlight a provision in the bill that requires the career council to involve military and veterans organizations as its proposals are developed.
Bosma said Indiana has a 20 percent jobless rate among its post-9/11 military veterans, and Pelath called that situation a deep point of sadness.
Pelath, D-Michigan City, said a couple of his neighbors are Iraq war veterans, one of whom suffered shrapnel wounds.
"All they want is to be able to live their lives with dignity and with honor," Pelath said. "After they've served us with dignity and honor, they deserve the chance to do that. We need to do better for them."
Indiana National Guard Brig. Gen. Brian Copes said it now has several programs to assist veterans but appreciates more help in trying to find jobs for them.
Capt. Catalina Carrasco, who leads the Guard's employment coordination program, said some National Guard members have trouble finding civilian jobs because they enlist right out of high school and have little previous work experience. She said those soldiers often need help describing the skills they learn in the military.
"Sometimes employers do not understand that some of these skills can be transferable to the work environment," Carrasco said.