Fifth class of Colorado Springs SMART Heroes graduate

US military members tap apprenticeship program to train for careers

Four members of the United States military graduated as the sixth class of the SMART Heroes program’s Colorado location Monday, Oct. 12, at Sheet Metal Workers Local 9, 1420 Quail Lake Loop in Colorado Springs.

The graduates represent the ranks of the Army and include Sgt. William Hughes III, Sgt. Brett Deffner, Spc. Edwin Ayala Jr., and Spc. Thabo Ntshakala.

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.

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 active duty 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.