The West

Former US Marine Deandre Simmons is keen to work in WA. Picture: Trevor Collens
Former US Marine Deandre Simmons is keen to work in WA. Picture: Trevor Collens

Few cities could serve as a starker example of the decline of American prosperity than Detroit, Michigan.

It has the dubious distinction of being the poster child for lost opportunities.

A one-time manufacturing and economic powerhouse, Detroit was Motor City and the renowned home of Motown.

It was where the desired and gleaming products of the world's biggest car makers rolled endlessly off production lines and the city's musicians filled the airwaves with one chart topping hit after another.

Since its downward spiral began in the 70s, Detroit has shed nearly half its population as workers moved for better opportunities. Even Motown shifted to Los Angeles.

Although the auto industry now appears to be recovering from its near-death experience, it's not hard to find workers willing to trade the bleak cityscape for the rugged, red Pilbara dust.

A jobs expo sponsored by the US Department of Veterans Affairs is the perfect opportunity for recently or soon-to-be ex- servicemen to connect with more than 500 potential employers.

Jobseekers crowded the centre for three days with Australian miners keen to recruit from this new source of skilled labour.

Labour company Flex Force supplies workers to several companies involved in the Mt Whaleback iron ore mine at Newman.

Its US office managing director Angelina Di Mauro believes former military personnel have qualities and skills that are perfect for the mining industry.

"Why we have a particular aim for US military veterans is because there are no cultural barriers for safety on mine sites," Ms Di Mauro said. "The guys have to speak fluent English. They have to take directions."

The Department of Immigration and Citizenship has sent a team from Washington DC to the expo to assist potential workers negotiate visa requirements.

Deandre Simmons, 24, joined the US Marines at 18 and trained as an electrical engineer.

"Growing up as a black kid in Detroit, no-one sees you being anything or going that far in life," he said. "I wanted to show that you can become more than what people think of you."

On a visit to the jobs expo with friend Douglas Vargas, he found the Flex Force desk, liked the idea of working in WA and applied immediately.

If accepted, he will undergo training to certify his electrical skills to Australian standards.

"I saw a lot of pictures as a child of the koalas, the desert, wildlife, kangaroos," Mr Simmons said. "Seeing another nation and interacting with people would be great."

'The guys have to speak fluent English. They have to take directions.' "Flex Force US managing director *Angelina Di Mauro *

The West Australian

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