Colorado Springs SMART Heroes celebrates third graduation

Active Army members, vets take advantage of free program to build careers

Seven members of the United States military and two veterans graduated as the third class of the SMART Heroes program’s Colorado location Feb. 24 at Sheet Metal Workers Local 9, 1420 Quail Lake Loop in Colorado Springs.

The graduates represent the ranks of the Army and include Spc. Samantha Sanborn, Spc. Anthony Barrera, Spc. William Rogers, Spc. Johnathan Stewart, Spc. Christopher Santoyo, Spc. Gary Hagan, and Spc. Sara Connolly.

In order to graduate, participants completed a seven-week course to earn the equivalent of their first-year sheet metal apprentice training (224 hours). Upon discharge from service, these graduates may choose to enter any of the 148 International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) apprenticeship programs in the United States and be provided direct entry and advanced placement as a second-year sheet metal apprentice, including a high probability of obtaining second-year apprentice wages and benefits.

Dignitaries in attendance at the graduation included Rob Biedermann, director of SMART Capital; Holly Van Liere, Colorado state director of Veterans’ Employment and Training Service for the U.S. Department of Labor; and Traci Marques, executive director/CEO of Pikes Peak Workforce Center.

The curriculum for the SMART Heroes program was created by the International Training Institute (ITI), the education arm of the unionized sheet metal, air conditioning and welding industry. The ITI, together with SMART and the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association, created the program in collaboration with SMART Local 9 Colorado and its training center, SMACNA Colorado and Helmets to Hardhats.

Launched in August 2017 in Washington, the SMART Heroes program was established to provide free sheet metal industry training to enlisted U.S. Military men and women who plan to enter the civilian life within the year, thereby assisting in a successful transition into the civilian workforce. The second location in Colorado Springs began offering the same training in August 2019.

For additional information on SMART Heroes, visit or call the International Training Institute at 703-739-7200.