Helmets to Hardhats program becomes reality in 2003

2002: Equipment World reported on the efforts of several contractor associations and unions to win federal funding for the Helmets to Hardhats program, which would recruit people leaving the military into construction careers.

Eight contractor associations and the 15 unions of the AFL-CIO’s Building and Construction Trades Department spent 2002 trying to convince Congress to establish the Center for Military Recruitment, Assessment & Veterans Employment to administer Helmets to Hardhats. The center would communicate with those being discharged from the military, assess their readiness for specific construction jobs and connect them with local unions or participating employers. The unions and contractor groups hoped Helmets to Hardhats would ease the construction industry’s skilled worker shortage while providing veterans with careers commensurate with their training and the benefits and financial packages they received in the military.

Today: Congress included funding for the center in the defense appropriations bill it approved October 16. The funding arrived January 6 and the center launched its website the same day. The website offers information about the program to both those leaving the military and employers interested in participating. Job candidates and employers register with the program through the website and employers also input job opportunities and apprenticeships online. As of late March, 15,883 people had visited the site and 434 had applied for jobs or apprenticeships.

Monica Worth, press relations director for Helmets to Hardhats, says military veterans bring a wide range of construction skills to the job market. “The military is really parallel to civilian life in terms of construction skills needed,” she says.

And if job candidates aren’t fully trained in a specific field or want to learn a new skill, Worth says they are easily trained. “These men and women are certifiably drug-free, mature, stable and have received leadership training,” she says. “You’ll find people with a terrific work ethic and attitude.”

Potential workers received top quality training in the military, Worth says, and taxpayers paid for that training. If the Helmets to Hardhats program can connect an employer looking for specific skills to someone leaving the military with those skills, the taxpayers’ investment has been leveraged for an individual company, she says.

Contractors can advertise job opportunities through the program for free and receive an evaluation of applicants’ military training and experience. To enroll, contractors must participate in a federally registered apprentice program, establish a permanent system to ensure employment and training opportunities, have a formal curriculum and instructor training program with related on-the-job instruction, possess a good affirmative action record and a record for caring for the welfare of workers.

Log on to www.helmetstohardhats.org for more information.