Aussie miners target us soldiers
ELIZABETH JACKSON: From the frontline, to the unemployment queue.
Jane Cowan reported this story on Saturday, June 30, 2012 08:11:00
Too often that's the grim reality for America's war heroes, returning from the battlefield at a time when there are already more job seekers than the economy can handle. But now help is coming from an unexpected quarter: Australian mining companies. North America correspondent, Jane Cowan, reports from a job fair with a difference in Detroit, Michigan.
JANE COWAN: When he got out of the army, Justin Schnepp thought the hard bit was over.
Little did he know.
JUSTIN SCHNEPP: It's pretty challenging. I find it very hard to entertain the thought of anything other than the military.
JANE COWAN: After six years and two tours in Iraq, the transition to the civilian workforce has been tough.
JUSTIN SCHNEPP: It has its days where you wonder what you're going to do the next day, 'cos I am unemployed right now.
JANE COWAN: He's not the only one. If the war was the frying pan, the US job market can feel like the fire. As hard as it is for ordinary Americans to find work, unemployment's even worse amongst returning servicemen and women. Thousands of war veterans converged on a hall in Detroit this week, attracted by the promise of more than 20,000 jobs offered by employers ranging from the big car companies like General Motors, to a local pizza place.
RETURNED MALE SOLDIER: Going from infantry it's pretty hard because not too many people want you to go out and shoot people
RETURNED FEMALE SOLDIER: It's been very difficult, but, however, today I hope I find a job.
JANE COWAN: John Garcia is with the US Department of Veterans Affairs.
JOHN GARCIA: Some of these young men and women have gone to Iraq, Afghanistan and other parts of the world that are doing three, four, five combat tours. They come back and there's a stigma I think of post traumatic stress syndrome, or combat fatigue. They don't understand the veteran.
JANE COWAN: A problem the US president, Barack Obama's, been trying to fix with incentives like tax cuts for businesses that hire ex military personnel.
BARACK OBAMA: Standing up for our veterans, this is not a Democratic responsibility, it's not a Republican responsibility, it's an American responsibility.
JANE COWAN: But while America's struggling with unemployment, Australia has the opposite problem; facing skills shortages, especially in the booming mining industry.
Colleen Lucas is here in Detroit, recruiting for Australian companies.
COLLEEN LUCAS: It's pretty much across the board; from central Queensland to Western Australia down to South Australia; there's projects going on all over the place really; in gas, coal, iron ore.
JANE COWAN: But Colleen Lucas is conscious giving jobs to foreigners can be sensitive territory.
COLLEEN LUCAS: Australia is looking for some skills that are in short supply at the moment to be able to get some projects off the ground. Some of them are just a little bit limited because of the particular people that are required to get projects up and running. And once they're up and running then there's heaps of job opportunities for lots of Australians.
In the meantime, American war veterans like Justin Schnepp are more than happy to help out.
JUSTIN SCHNEPP: Well I was in Germany for six years, so the thought of going to another country - I like that idea. You know, you get to see the world again. And I - it would be pretty interesting maybe to work in a mine - you know, see what it's all about; more hard work and I would do that.
JANE COWAN: With thousands more troops streaming home from the war winding down in Afghanistan, it's not exactly a long term fix. But America will take what it can get.
This is Jane Cowan in Detroit for Saturday AM.