During the recent snowstorms, the Indiana National Guard was out in full force helping residents.
Yet when the storms had passed, many of the soldiers hung up their uniforms and continued being unemployed, said Marcus McDowell, a veterans' employment coordinator for Northwest Indiana.
The Indiana Employment Coordination Program seeks to connect veterans of all military branches with employers who are looking to hire, especially small business owners, McDowell said.
The program is free to both veterans and employers, and offers assistance in areas such as resume preparation, interview techniques and attire.
While veterans may need some help finding a job, they already have a strong work ethic.
“These are people who are used to working 12-plus hours a day, six to seven days a week, in the most austere environment that you can think of,” McDowell said.
“These kids gave up everything they loved and passed up on college or a trade school to be part of something bigger than themselves.”
McDowell said per capita, Indiana is the most deployed state in the country, and has the fourth highest percentage of veterans within its borders.
Yet the unemployment rate for Indiana veterans is about 22 percent compared to 7 percent in the civilian population, he said.
McDowell, who has an office in Gary, said one of the most important services the program offers is resume preparation.
“We make sure that at the very least each applicant has a job-ready resume before they leave us,” he said. “We also keep information on local military friendly colleges.
“We are here to help. We will go out of our way to meet with you if you can't come in, and there are computers at my office you can use if you don't have one.”
McDowell has matched veterans with a variety of companies including Securitas, Hearthside Food Solutions, NiSource (NIPSCO), Fastenal, O'Reilly Auto Parts and Speedway.
While pay varies with each job and experience, most veterans make an average of about $10 an hour to start, and some have obtained positions paying as high as $25 an hour.
“The successful placement of an applicant is almost 100 percent determined by them,” McDowell said. “This is not a place where one can just walk in and get a job. Our mission is to create prepared and job-ready individuals to get out into the workforce.”
Veterans and businesses may contact McDowell at (317) 247-3300, ext. 88008, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. His office is at 2501 E. 15th Ave., Room 300, Gary, IN 46402.