Minnesota is, by most counts, not an especially competitive state in November’s presidential election, so it stands to reason that, when pandering to voters in their nationally-televised debates, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are much more likely to name-drop states like Ohio or Virginia.
But Minnesota came up twice in the now-concluded series of debates — Obama referenced Marvin Windows in the first one (as he did in his DNC speech), and during Monday night’s foreign policy debate, he discussed a conversation he had with a Minnesota veteran last summer.
Obama was addressing the transition veterans face when they return home from war, especially when it comes to getting jobs that fit the skill set they used in the military.
“I was having lunch with some — a veteran in Minnesota who had been a medic dealing with the most extreme circumstances,” Obama said. “When he came home and he wanted to become a nurse, he had to start from scratch. And what we’ve said is, let’s change those certifications.”
Obama is referring to a lunch he had with a group of veterans during a bus tour through Cannon Falls last August.
Stewartville veteran Joseph Kidd, in particular, told Obama about the difficulties he faced transitioning into the job market after leaving the Navy. The Post-Bulletin summarizes:
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. …
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.”
Congress has done a bit of work on the matter. In September, it passed a bill allowing active duty members get commercial driver’s licenses at military installations, even if the service members are away from home. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar was a co-sponsor of the bill (it passed unanimously). She’s also introduced legislation to speed up the paramedic permitting process for appropriately-skilled veterans. That bill has stalled.
The unemployment rate for veterans of the wars in the Middle East is almost two points higher than it is for the general population — it was at 9.7 percent in September, compared to 7.8 percent for the workforce at large.
Devin Henry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @dhenry