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Military affairs beat: Helping our troops with their job skills

  • Article by: Mark Brunswick
  • Star Tribune
  • March 6, 2012 - 7:17 PM

Nine civilian and state employment and education specialists are in Kuwait trying to improve the job prospects of returning Minnesota National Guard troops.

The group, known as an Employment Resource Team, has been in Kuwait since March 1 and is expected to return Wednesday. As of Tuesday, 663 soldiers had participated, with about 50 soldiers per class.

One of every five members of the 2,700 Minnesota National Guard now deployed with the 1st Brigade Combat Team in Kuwait will be unemployed or looking for new jobs when they return home, according to a Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development survey completed in January.

Minnesota has had one of the highest unemployment rates for post-9/11 veterans in the country, and sending the team to Kuwait is an effort to address the issue before troops begin returning this spring. At 19 percent, the unemployment rate for Minnesota post-9/11 vets is more than three times higher than the state's overall unemployment rate.

Most soldiers seeking support from the team, which includes managers from Best Buy, U.S. Bank and Target, have never conducted a job interview before and about six per class are interested in starting their own business, said Maj. Aaron D. Krenz, Deployment Cycle Support chief for the Minnesota Guard, which is coordinating the program.

The soldiers must come prepared with résumés and individual action plans. Depending on their employment interest and skills, they are provided individual and small group consultations. The team makes recommendations on helping soldiers describe their job skills and communicating how their military careers might translate into a civilian job.

Besides the corporate recruiters, the team consists of officials from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs and the St. Paul Chamber of Commerce.

mbrunswick@startribune.com • 612-673-4434

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