It is estimated that there are over 24 million U.S. Military Veterans. More than 2 million of them are under 35 years of age, and many of those are in need of good paying jobs…

The courage, strength, and commitment of those who have served in our armed forces never cease to amaze and impress me. The rigors of basic training builds muscle, stamina, and discipline, and it clears away the sleep from young eyes; the camaraderie that develops from being part of a fighting unit builds teamwork, character, and leadership. These are the kind of men and women we need in the building trades!

National Guardsman from the 133rd Engineering Battalion, Westbrook, Maine and airmen from the 11th Civil Engineering Squadron Bowling Air Force Base, Washington, D.C., work at a school building project in El Salvador, in 2005. The effort was part of the New Horizons Exercise projects that provided two new schools and three clinics in areas that were hit by earthquakes. U.S. Air Force photo.

MILITARY USES SKILLED TRADES

In addition to the disciplines of basic service as infantrymen, the military has dozens of occupations related to the construction industry. The Army Corps of Engineers and the Navy Seabees are but two examples of special units specifically designed for construction activities. Painters, carpenters, brick and cement masons, roofing, plaster, and drywall installation are all skill sets performed in the U.S. Military.

To help veterans, many returning from extended service overseas, the U.S. Military has partnered with the Building and Construction Trades Department of the AFL-CIO to create a program called, “Helmets to Hardhats.” Soldiers who are concluding their military service can register with the program to identify career opportunities in the trades. Employers, unions, and apprenticeship programs can all register with the program to advertise jobs they are trying to fill. Helmets to Hardhats acts as a bridge between veterans seeking careers in the building trades and those who have such opportunities to offer.

Helmets to Hardhats is not interested in placing servicemen into low paying or dead-end jobs. Our veterans have earned more than that! The folks at Helmets to Hardhats are seeking out the best career opportunities in the construction industry. Anyone advertising with the program must be offering a career package that would include the type of training found in a registered apprenticeship program. They must be offering competitive wages, and a benefit package that would include a pension plan and medical insurance. If we want to recruit and retain serious people, then we need to be serious about providing career opportunities and not just transitional jobs.

WOUNDED WARRIOR PROGRAM

For every soldier killed in action, three or more are seriously wounded. By the end of 2007, over 28,000 servicemen incurred serious injuries in Iraq alone, many suffering permanent disabilities. Helmets to Hardhats is committed to helping these brave young men and women find meaningful careers, and so should we! In addition to craft jobs, the walls and ceiling industry is full of clerical, estimating, sales, and administration jobs that would make ideal opportunities for veterans who may no longer be able to climb a ladder or walk a scaffold. Many of these disabled veterans will be using their Montgomery G.I. Bill benefits to take CAD, estimating, marketing, and construction management classes at their local colleges. What better resource could an employer tap into, and at the same time give a wounded warrior a career opportunity? Talk about your win–win situation.

Disabled veterans who are part of the Helmets to Hardhats program are offered advice on interviewing techniques, career counseling, and coping with the emotional and practical obstacles they must face in their personal and professional lives.

ADVERTISING CAREER OPPORTUNITIES

Helmets to Hardhats maintains a web service where approved employers and unions who wish to advertise career opportunities can post their jobs. There is no cost to veterans or participating employers for this service. The engine for the job search is run by a contract with Monster.com, but is exclusive to veterans and employers who have registered with Helmets to Hardhats. Employers can directly search the online database for qualified veterans who have registered for the program and who are actively seeking employment.

Do you know a veteran who is looking for a career? The transition from military to civilian life can be difficult. Helmets to Hardhats offers a variety of resources to help returning veterans meet this new challenge. From advice on applying for and using their G.I. Bill, to offering an online forum where veterans can help other veterans on everything from career advice to dealing with the realities only a veteran can understand. Helmets to Hardhats is a valuable resource that is run by veterans, for veterans.

I recently had the opportunity to meet the new executive director of the program, Darrel Roberts, a veteran himself of both the U.S. Navy and the National Guard, and a sheet-metal worker by trade. Darrel was presenting to a group of apprenticeship coordinators during the World of Concrete convention where he said:

The Helmets to Hardhats program has experienced many changes in 2007. These changes are helping to take Helmets to Hardhats to the next level of professionalism and customer service. And because of these changes, the men and women of our nation’s armed forces, and the companies and organizations who are offering great careers in the construction industry, will reap the benefits for years to come.

We have connected thousands of America’s service men and women with great careers in the construction industry. These careers allow veterans to live their American dream, and it allows our employers and skilled trade unions to reap the benefits of these outstanding employees and apprentices.

However, this program would never be successful without the dedication and resolve that you demonstrate in service to our military members. By participating in the program, you are sending a powerful message that you, as Employers, Trade Unions, and Joint Apprenticeship Training Councils, are united and committed to helping our nation’s military service members.

And to the men and women who have served our country with great distinction, honor and bravery, we have one message for you: You have served our country-now let us help you secure your future in the construction industry.

EMPLOYER ELIGIBILITY

Employers who are members of any of the Helmets-to-Hardhats-approved contracting associations or are party to a collective bargaining agreement with a partnering union can register and have immediate access to advertise opportunities online.

Other employers can participate, but will have to be screened for employment criteria before they can advertise trade opportunities. Trade career criteria includes access to a registered apprentice program, or a permanent system to ensure employment and training opportunities using formal curriculum that includes both “related” (classroom) instruction and “on the job” training components, an affirmative action program, and a positive record of caring for the welfare of workers as evidenced by health insurance, and workman’s compensation protection.

Employers who want to advertise non-trade opportunities, i.e., such as those appropriate for the wounded warrior program, must ensure that they are quality employers providing good pay, benefits and matching the high standards of the other member employers.

If Helmets to Hardhats confirms that an employer is not advertising acceptable opportunities, the employer’s access to the system can be cancelled.

Third party vendors cannot use the Helmets to Hardhats website to advertise opportunities.

Here are three of the modern-day advertising slogans that have attracted many of our veterans to serve their country:

Be All You Can Be
You Made Him Strong, We Made Him Army Strong
The Few, The Proud, The Marines

These slogans appealed to the sense of patriotism, pride, and self-worth of our veterans. It just makes sense for the walls and ceilings industry to recruit the type of people who would have been inspired by these slogans, and who had the heart and fortitude to meet the challenge they faced.

Helmets to Hardhats is funded and administered by the Center for Military Recruitment, Assessment and Veterans Employment.

Resources For Helmets To Hardhats

• Brochure: info.helmetstohardhats.org/content/images/pdf/h2h-union-brochure.pdf
• Website: www.helmetstohardhats.com/
• Phone: 866-741-6210