Building Trades Unions Embrace Military Veterans
Find a Home in Unions
The construction sites of Southern California are a world away from the dangerous streets of Iraq. But, an increasing number of veterans are finding a home in the Building Trades craft unions. With the help of Helmets to Hardhats — a partnership between the Building Trades, the signatory Construction Industry Employer Associations and the U.S. Military — military veterans are transitioning back to civilian life with quality career training and employment opportunities within the building and construction industry. Helmets to Hardhats is designed to ease the difficult passage into civilian life for military families, providing the best career opportunities, pay, and benefits to those who have earned the nation’s support through their years of service.
The program is proving to be a great fit, for both returning servicemen and women and the unionized construction trades. Veterans receive the best training in the trade of their choice and an opportunity for a well-paying union career while the construction industry receives quality, hard-working apprentices, ready for the challenges of the building trades.
“Because of their military experience, these guys no longer have the kid in them,” said Doug Williams, Business Manager of Iron Workers Local 433. “They have discipline, can follow instructions and are not afraid to work hard. They are the kind of men we need in our industry.” Local 433 has a long history of strong military ties.
“What’s not to like about these men? They are respectful; they show up on-time ready to work. They show up for class on time. They make great candidates for our apprenticeship program,” said Paul Martinez, Coordinator for Iron Workers JAC. Iron Worker locals 433 and 416 have whole- heartedly embraced the program. They currently have approximately 30 Helmets to Hardhats participants, with plans to take in more.
“We plan to indenture two Helmets to Hardhats members every week for the next year as long as the industry can sustain it,” said Martinez. “The local has a long history of strong ties to the military. Contractors are very receptive to these men, which helps since we often help them get their first jobs,” he said.
The program collects career opportunities from the nationwide building and construction trades and works to provide former military personnel with that data.
Candidates can access information about careers and apprenticeships via the Internet from anywhere in the world. To apply for work or membership, candidates complete a comprehensive profile that helps hiring managers determine what transferable skills they acquired during their military service. Once a candidate finds and submits interest in a career opportunity, they are contacted by a Helmet to Hardhats representative to ensure all application requirements are met. Other veterans found their way to trades through career fairs.
“We make it a point to attend job fairs that will be attended by veterans,” said Martinez.
Clarence Sequeira and Dean Mallender are two newly indentured Helmets to Hardhats apprentices (NFGs in militaryspeak) with Iron Workers Local 433. Sequeira, served in Army for six years, including two tours of duty in Iraq. He was first exposed to construction in Iraq, where he helped to rebuild parts of Baghdad. “The trades remind me of the military. You got guys yelling at you and you have to be out there hustling,” he said. “The discipline in the military definitely prepared me for a career as an Iron Worker.”
Mallender served eight years in the Army reserve, including one tour of duty in Iraq. His well-mannered and polite demeanor quickly earned him the nickname “Forest” after the film character “Forest Gump.”
“I feel the same camaraderie and brotherhood that I experienced in the military,” “It’s a wonderful feeling to be immediately accepted and put to work,” said Mallender.
“I’m very thankful to be back here and not being mortared or shot at,” he added. Both Mallender and Sequeira were not aware of the Helmets to Hardhats program until they attended a recent job fair.
“The military needs to make veterans aware of this Helmets to Hardhats program. I found out about this by attending a job fair.
“If Uncle Sam made people being discharged from the military aware that a program like this exists, I have no doubt there would be more veterans enrolled in Helmets to Hardhats,” said Mallender.
“Military veterans represent a resource for highly skilled talent. They are a highly trainable which makes them ideal for union apprenticeships,” said Tom Aiello, vice president, of Monster Military. “Also, veterans’ strong leadership skills can fill critical shortages for foremen and site managers in the construction industry.”
“We want to be the first resource veterans, Apprenticeship Program instructors, and construction employers go to, and we want to deliver them the highest quality veteran candidates,” explained Darrell Roberts, executive director for Helmets to Hardhats.