26 April 2017
This year, the Caulfield to Dandenong Level Crossing Removal Project is set to become the first major civil infrastructure project to partner with Veterans in Construction as a way to connect with high-quality personnel.
Loosely based on the US Helmets to Hard Hats program, the organisation was co-founded by David Cook and Dan Cairns and offers advice, mentoring, support, camaraderie and connections for the current generation of veterans.
"It's about providing a hand up to those returning personnel who are interested in construction careers and encouraging companies to see the benefits," Dan said.
According to Dan, the typical age for veterans re-joining the workforce after active overseas tours is mid to late twenties. For many, finding work – even in fields they are ideally suited to – can be a challenge due to the stigmas often attached to those returning from active service.
On the level crossing removal project, the move is already paying off, with the first five candidates impressing supervisors with their work ethic and initiative on site.
"The physical element and the culture of the experiences the guys have had previously fit well with the construction industry," says Operations Manager Simon Barnes.
In wider industry and employment circles, Dan believes that stigma surrounding war veterans is still a barrier to be overcome.
"It's about overcoming some of those stigmas that potential employers may find, such as thinking that military personnel are 'broken', when often it's not the case," said Dan.
Leadership, discipline, maturity and technical precision in high-pressure and arduous environments – all core skills developed by defence force personnel – are highly sought after on building sites, and are skills that veterans can deliver in spades.
For veterans who have completed active duty overseas, employment initiatives like these make the transition back to civilian life just that bit less daunting.
The $1.6 billion Caulfield to Dandenong Level Crossing Project is removing nine dangerous and congested level crossings and building five new stations in Melbourne's south-east.