Sheet metal workers, Helmets to Hardhats help veterans find careers


Software bridge allows interested veterans to directly connect with apprenticeships

FAIRFAX, Va. – The International Training Institute (ITI) and Helmets to Hardhats recently announced a partnership to help give honorably discharged veterans a better chance at finding a career with the unionized sheet metal and air conditioning industry.

The ITI, the education arm of the industry, and Helmets to Hardhats partnered to create a software bridge between the two organizations, keeping veterans and their interests in career opportunities from falling through the cracks. The bridge launched Jan. 20.

The partnership improves the communication between Helmets to Hardhats and the ITI to ensure veterans have the best opportunity for success.

Currently, Helmets to Hardhats uses traditional methods – email, phone and fax – to reach coordinators. However, if the contacts aren’t updated, emails disappear in cyber space, phone calls fall on deaf ears and faxes are never received. No connection is made and the veteran is no closer to a career than when he/she started.

Helmets to Hardhats helps military service members successfully transition back into civilian life by offering them the means to secure a quality career in the construction industry. The ITI has 153 training centers across the country and provides four- or five-year programs to qualified apprentices in HVAC, welding, architectural, sign design, building information modeling (BIM), testing, adjusting and balancing air flow (TAB), commercial and residential service and more. Because the schools are supported by the individual memberships, students graduate debt free. They also earn while they learn as they work on job sites, testing and honing the skills they learn in the lab, shop and classroom.

There is no need for a veteran to start over, earning minimal wages. They can get to work on a career, complete with benefits, they can make last their lifetime.

The bridge between the two organizations allows veterans with specific military jobs skills and/or a sheet metal interest to fill out personal information and upload a resume to the Helmets to Hardhats website. From there, through the system, they can choose to send the information to training schools anywhere in the country where they’d like to work. An email and task are then sent to the training coordinators of those schools, and the ITI can also track the veterans who have applied throughout the country.

At most training centers across the country, qualified veterans may have direct entry or be eligible for advanced standing into the apprenticeship, bypassing waiting lists and time tables. Direct entry takes the skills veterans have learned in the military and puts them right to work.
“Why would you pick up someone off the street when you have people who are already skilled at their jobs? Take someone who’s done the same work or similar work we’ve done,” said Larry Lawrence, ITI regional field representative, and Navy veteran. “The transition from their military job to sheet metal work will be easy for them.”

The bridge allows parties on all sides to work smarter, not harder.

“With everyone as busy as they are, it will allow a better connection between Helmets to Hardhats and the sheet metal workers. We have seven people on staff, and, it can take some time to speak with and work with every veteran who contacts us,” said Darrell Roberts, executive director of Helmets to Hardhats. The organization receives 1,800 to 2,500 registered veterans from their website per month. “The apprentice coordinator will receive an instantaneous outreach from a veteran who wants to be a sheet metal worker.”

For the ITI, everyone wins – veterans find careers and the sheet metal workers find qualified, skilled workers with discipline and strong work ethic.

“It’s another avenue to help our local unions and our exiting military personnel,” Lawrence said. “It gives them another avenue for success.”

Other than welding and HVAC, there are more than 50 military jobs in all branches that can easily transition to sheet metal work including occupational field engineering, aircraft mechanics and electronics, maintenance, fire protection, explosive ordinance disposal, emergency management, electronic warfare systems technician, water and fuel systems maintenance and more.

“For the sheet metal workers to put this effort in place for the veterans is uncharted territory,” Roberts said. “We are trying to evolve the program. Helmets to Hardhats is 13 years old. The steps we’re making now with the sheet metal workers is, to me, cutting edge. As quick as information travels, this is going to get it there as fast as possible. I hope it’s something the other skilled trades adopt.”

More than 15,000 apprentices are registered at 153 training facilities in the United States and Canada. The ITI is jointly sponsored by SMART, the International Association of Sheet Metal Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (formerly the Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association) and the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA).

ITI supports apprenticeship and advanced career training for union workers in the sheet metal industry throughout the United States and Canada. Located in Fairfax, Va., ITI produces a standardized sheet metal curriculum supported by a wide variety of training materials free of charge to sheet metal apprentices and journeymen.

air conditioning industry, Architectural, building information modeling, Darrell Roberts, discharged veterans, Helmets to Hardhats, HVAC, International Association of Sheet Metal Air, Larry Lawrence, military service, sign design, unionized sheet metal, Welding
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