Helmets to Hardhats

While the tide seems to be turning slightly on veteran, particularly Post-9/11 veteran, employment, many veterans remain in the job hunt (about 6-7% of vets overall and just over 9% for Post-9/11 vets remained unemployed in Feb 2014). According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, jobs in the construction and construction related field are poised to grow by 15-20% over the next decade and qualified members of this field can make anywhere from about $30,000 (roofers) to $80,000 (construction managers) a year. And Helmets to Hardhats is here to help veterans take advantage of these opportunities.

Started in 2003 through Congressional funding, Helmets to Hardhats (H2H) is a non-profit run by the Center for Military Recruitment, Assessment, and Veterans Employment. Helmets to Hardhats directly connects veterans with apprenticeships and employment opportunities, at both the trade and managerial levels, in the construction and construction-related (everything from painting to bricklaying) industries. While H2H isn’t a job placement service, it does provide a venue for veterans to locate available positions and helps them bypass red tape issues, such as residency requirements, which can sometimes accompany these programs. According to their website, Helmets to Hardhats has placed over 6,000 veterans since 2007.

The apprenticeships, which generally last between two and five years, are paid opportunities for the on-the-job training and certification. According to a 2012 article in the Review Journal, a first year apprentice makes approximately $15 an hour and, once an apprenticeship is complete, can expect to make between $20 and $50 an hour depending on the trade. Since the apprenticeships are largely federally approved programs, many qualify for GI Bill as well. Also, vets can receive credit for military training and experience.

Basic Eligibility:

– Guard, Reserve, retirees, and transitioning active duty members (“transitioning” is broadly used – I’ve been out for years and had no trouble setting up an account)

– At least 18 years old

– Honorable discharge

– Hold a high school diploma or equivalent

– Pass a drug test

– Complete a formal interview

– No prior experience required (most apprenticeships will involve an application and/or aptitude test component) and many positions can accommodate disabled veterans

Each apprenticeship has different application requirements. I reviewed several and most require the following documentation: copy of DD-214, school transcripts, high school diploma or proof of GED, valid driver’s license, birth certificate.

The Helmets to Hardhats website is fairly easy to navigate. Knowing very little about the construction field, I personally found the “Learn More about the Construction Trades” under the “For Military Service Members” link useful. In order to see any of the jobs, you’ll need to create a profile. The profile itself was simple to start – requiring your contact information (including physical address), current title (if you have one), area of expertise (this is a drop down menu of organizations along the lines of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers), type of discharge, short description, and an opportunity to upload a resume. Deleting your profile, should you find employment or simply change your mind, is as simple as a button click.

In addition to the job search available on their page, you’ll want to like their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter, as new opportunities are posted there regularly. Current examples include:

– Pipefitters Local 120 in Cleveland now accepting apprenticeship applications

– “Women in Construction” Symposium July 29th at the University of Michigan

– Electricians Local Union #3 will be doing aptitude testing in early July for veterans interested in being a Union Electrician

Note; While the program is not entirely union focused, many of the organizations are union based. You can see a video here, made by the AFL-CIO, about union Post-9/11 veterans who helped rebuild the World Trade Center through the Helmets to Hardhats program.

You can find out more on the Helmets to Hardhats webpage.

© 2014 – 2020, Sarah Maples LLC. All rights reserved.

Sarah Maples is a former Air Force intelligence officer and an Afghanistan veteran. She is a freelance writer and editor, specializing in veteran, military, and defense topics.

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