American business offers to help ex-soldiers find work

01/02/12

Mark Haake

As thousands of US soldiers and marines return home from conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, many of them are facing a new challenge: trying to get a job.

The latest figures show more than 800,000 young US veterans are currently unemployed. That's led one small business in Columbus, Ohio to focus on only hiring ex servicemen.

Tipping Point specialises in installing solar panels. Over the past year, everyone hired to work on their installation jobs has served in the military.

Corporal Mark Haake is one of their new recruits.

He told Newsbeat: "It's great, we're all veterans. I'm getting along with everybody. I haven't been this excited since I got out."

It feels amazing to finally be in work again. But it was so difficult for a while and I felt like people have just forgotten about veterans
Corporal Mark Haake

But he's angry that it's been such a struggle since he left the military.

"I served in Iraq and Afghanistan, mainly working as an electrician fixing the attack helicopters," he said.

"I wanted to continue that work when I got home but was told I didn't have the right qualifications to be an electrician. It makes no difference that I already have 5 years of job experience."

"I got really depressed about it. I was getting ready to apply for jobs at gas stations."

'Good work ethic'

Not having the right qualifications is a common problem for many servicemen and women as they look to use their experience to get job outside the military.

The most recent unemployment statistics in the US show that the overall rate dropped to 8.5% in December 2011. However, the veteran rate climbed to 13.5%.

Eric Zimmer
Image caption Tipping Point co-founder Eric Zimmer says soldiers have a "good work ethic"

Eric Zimmer is the co-founder of Tipping Point. He says although his company is small he wanted to do his bit to help.

"These are people that served our country and allow us to be a business and have freedom," he says.

"They bring a lot to the job that goes beyond just their skills. They bring a good mentality and work ethic."

New law

Late last year lawmakers in the US passed the Vow to Hire Heroes Act, which it's hoped will help thousands of military personnel retrain when they finish their service in Afghanistan.

Tom Tarantino is a former Army Officer who now speaks for the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

He told Newsbeat: "This new law came too late for a lot of people but doing the right thing late is better than doing nothing at all."

Mark Haake says the plans have come too late for him and claims there needs to be more recognition of the problem of veteran unemployment across the US.

"It feels amazing to finally be in work again. But it was so difficult for a while and I felt like people have just forgotten about veterans," he said.