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Helmets-to-Hardhats Program Links Troops With Civilian Careers

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 7, 2004 – A federally funded program, Helmets to Hardhats, is making good on the military recruiters "selling" point that service members gain valuable skills they can apply in the private sector following their service.

The program helps service members and military veterans put their training to use as they transition to jobs in the building and construction trades.

Launched in January 2003 with funding from the 2003 Defense Appropriations Act, Helmets to Hardhats provides an important link between veterans and soon-to-be veterans and 15 building and construction trades organizations clambering for their skills. Collectively, these organizations represent about 82,000 contractors nationwide.

Monica Worth, from Helmets to Hardhats, said veterans bring employers an array of enticing attributes. "They're a known quantity, they're drug-free, they have a good level of education and training, they're oriented toward working with diverse groups in diverse environments, and they're accustomed to the concept of 'training to train,'" she said.

In addition, Worth said the construction trades offer diverse positions that appeal to former service members who enjoy working with their hands and applying their minds as well as their strength on the job.

The program offers a lucrative alternative for transitioning service members too. Worth said apprentices in labor unions get paid while they train, and former service members can supplement those earnings with their G.I. Bill benefits. After completing their apprenticeship and advancing in their particular field, she said workers in the building and construction trades can earn salaries approaching six figures.

"I highly recommend that transitioning military consider joining unions and embarking on a career in construction," said John Coble, a former Ranger who now serves as an organizer for the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 302. "In a union, you can always be assured that you will get a high hourly wage, great insurance and a good pension plan."

Roger Ervine, a former U.S. Navy aviation electronics technician, called the Helmets to Hardhats program "an enormous benefit to those individuals who would like to find civilian employment and have a meaningful career when they get out of the armed forces." Ervine is currently an electricians' apprentice for International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union 639 in San Luis Obispo, Calif.

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