'Helmets to Hardhats' Trains Veterans for Careers in Almost Any Construction Field

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(U.S. Air National Guard/Staff Sgt. Steven Tucker)

Civil engineers. Seabees. Basic Engineer, Construction and Equipment Marine. Call the position what you like, almost every branch has them, and they're one of the easiest jobs to translate into civilian life.

For any military member looking to build a career with calloused hands, whether they learned construction and engineering in the military or not, the first stop should be the nonprofit Helmets to Hardhats.

Founded in 2002, Helmets to Hardhats is just what it sounds like: a chance to do construction work as a civilian with an easy transition into a new life and career. While it's open to the active-duty, National Guard and reserve components of every branch, there are openings for separated veterans too.

Through its union partnerships, signing up with Helmets to Hardhats means no-cost training in a skilled trade for veterans, a three-to-five year apprenticeship regimen that not only helps train and certify students, but also allows them to earn a wage. Veterans and military members can do all of it without ever touching their GI Bill benefits.

For those already skilled, trained and certified, the site also hosts job listings from across the country, from employers that know the value veterans bring to a job site. These include:

  • Hydrovac Operators
  • CDL Drivers
  • Plumbers and Pipefitters
  • Glaziers
  • Backhoe/Excavator Operators

The average salary of a skilled trade worker is around $60,000, and that's just at the apprenticeship level.

The goal is to help transitioning veterans not only find employment, but also satisfaction in a job well done through federally funded training programs. Federal funding means veterans can use their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to supplement their incomes if they choose. Best of all, the training is nationally recognized, and some even come with college credit.

The program already boasts some 36,000 Helmets to Hardhats alumni.

Even beginning with zero experience in the construction industry, vets are able to learn everything they need to know to get started in an apprenticeship. And while veteran apprentices will gain a wide range of knowledge about various jobs in the field, they will be able to specialize in one specific area.

Though the program doesn't include job placement, it will add your name to a roll of more than 100,000 veterans who work in the construction industry. This list is in-demand by hiring managers and recruiters for skilled trades.

Helmets to Hardhats is administered by the 501(c)3 nonprofit Center for Military Recruitment, Assessment, and Veterans Employment.

Those who already have skills in one of the job listings on the website need only register, fill out a profile and apply for the job. Those looking for training in a skilled trade should first check out the apprenticeship brochure for a complete list of possible careers, or explore the various trades you can learn -- then register.

-- Blake Stilwell can be reached at blake.stilwell@military.com. He can also be found on Twitter @blakestilwell or on Facebook.

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