On a trip to Minnesota last year, President Obama had lunch with Joseph Kidd, of Stewartville. But when Obama visited Minnesota on Friday, Kidd was happy to be at work instead.
When he met the president at a Cannon Falls restaurant, Kidd, a Navy veteran, had been unemployed since he was discharged in April 2011. The frustrating part, however, was that his years of military medical training didn't transfer to civilian experience, he said.
Obama is trying to change the situation for veterans, though, and on Friday, while speaking at Honeywell’s Golden Valley facility, he called on Congress to pass Veterans Job Corps legislation. The bill would leverage skills developed in the military to put Afghanistan and Iraq veterans to work as cops, firefighters and other jobs serving the community.
The president also announced a "We Can’t Wait" initiative to help thousands of service members with manufacturing and other high-demand skills receive civilian credentials and licenses.
"That would be great to help other veterans," Kidd said.
Kidd, though, is already looking to change his career track, from medicine to business, after following a friend's recommendation to apply for a job as a meter reader for Minnesota Energy Resources.
"Honestly, my job right now is pretty awesome in terms of the freedom and having good co-workers and leadership," Kidd said.
By focusing on business, he could continue to advance in the company, he said. As for his medical experience during two deployments to Iraq, it didn't transfer to a civilian medical career, despite his having treated U.S. military personnel, Iraqi civilians and enemy prisoners of war, and having managed more than 40 naval members as a chief petty officer of an emergency room at Camp Lejeune Naval Hospital in North Carolina.
Kidd had to start over in medical work last fall, taking pre-nursing courses at Rochester Community and Technical College, where he held a 4.0 GPA. In December, he took the job with Minnesota Energy.
Although his medic experience didn't directly transfer to the Minnesota Energy job, Kidd said he thinks his military background helped him stand out among 800 applicants.
"That definitely didn't hurt any," he said, adding, "The guy who was hired after me is also a veteran."
Cannon Falls vet finds work
Another of the five veterans who had lunch with Obama in August, Scott Peer, an Army National Guard veteran from Cannon Falls, has also found full-time work since meeting the president. Peer was finishing school and doing an internship in network administration at Thomson Reuters in Eagan when he met Obama; he has since been hired full-time by the company.
Peer credits his military background and training for helping him land the job, and for steering his career in that direction.
But, "A lot of my friends are still looking for work," he said.
On May 24, the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee released a report showing that veterans ages 18-24 face an unemployment rate of more than 30 percent, nearly double the unemployment rate facing non-veterans the same age. In Minnesota, 11.7 percent of post-9/11 veterans are unemployed, according to the report, compared to 5.8 percent unemployment among non-veterans.