State lawmakers want to make Florida the most veteran friendly in the nation. This session, lawmakers are sticking with that pledge, with a push to improve veteran employment and education.
Bobby Carbonell served in the National Guard, and now represents the advocacy group Florida is for Veterans. Carbonell says vets have a lot to offer when they leave the service.
“There’s a million skill sets for different jobs. There’s plumbers, there’s carpenters, people who work on jet engines, there’s people who fire weapons, there’s people who do computer software programming. If you can think of a job in the civilian world, there’s probably a military equivalent of that job,” he said.
According to the US Census Bureau, vets are more likely than the average American to have a high school diploma, but less likely to have a college degree. Valrico Representative Jake Raburn and Senator Tom Lee of Brandon want to close that gap. Here’s Representative Raburn.
“First, it allows honorably discharged veterans to receive college credit for college level training and education acquired in the military. Secondly it requires DOE to include the defense language proficiency test to the list of acceleration mechanisms for which college credit may be awarded. And lastly it authorizes a tuition and fee waiver for all recipients of the Purple Heart award,” he said.
The bill has already passed the House and is ready for a floor vote in the Senate.
Jacksonville Senator Aaron Bean wants to help vets utilize their service skills when they leave the military.
“Not only do they learn the military arts, but everybody in the military learns a skill, has a skill. And maybe that skill to fix an automobile, or fix the heating and air unit in a building, or engineer something,” he said.
Bean’s bill would allow vets to get certified for their military experience as construction workers, electricians, or paramedics.
“They learn these skills, and when they get out of the military they come to our state, and then we tell them that they have to go back and get trained for whatever skill that they learned in the military. Well, if we pass 1504 that won’t be the case!” he said.
Senator Greg Evers of Milton says veterans are already attracted to Florida, but he wants to make sure they stick around.
“Look, let’s face it. They come, they enjoy what we got, and then they move off. And then when they get ready to retire, guess what? They move back. So once they get the sand in their shoes, we can’t get rid of em. So this is just another tool that we would have to see that our veterans would have a job here in the state of Florida,” he said.
The state already prioritizes the employment of veterans. Evers’ bill would take that a step farther, with targeted recruitment of vets.
“Few steps are made to attract and employ them. So what this bill does is, it requires state agencies to actively recruit veterans to work for the state,” he said.
The bill is ready for a floor vote in both chambers.
With leadership skills, and on the job experience, vets don’t leave the service empty handed. And the economy reflects that. According to Congress, Florida veterans’ unemployment is lower than the state’s overall rate, and the rate of veterans nationwide. These stats beg the question, are lawmakers’ vet programs mission critical? Bobby Carbonell at Florida is for Veterans says yes.
“So there is a need. Because there’s definitely still a stigma associated with veterans, and we need to kinda help bridge that gap, and get the civilian employers really thinking about veterans as an asset to their business,” he said.
Lawmakers have about two weeks to make their case before the end of the 2016 legislative session.