Military-construction career transition options: Helmets to Hardhats (H2H) links NC veterans to unionized construction careers

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North Carolina Construction News staff writer

Military veterans are encouraged to consider construction trades careers, and they can choose different paths to their new trades.

One option is the Helmets to Hardhats (H2H) program, which links veterans to relevant construction trade unions for apprenticeships under union supervision.

Alternatively, they can elect to work with successful non-union contractors, such as Griffin Electric, which provide comprehensive training programs and support for veterans.

The stories in this special feature outline the choices and opportunities.

North Carolina Construction News staff writer

The national Helmets to Hardhats (H2H) program – which helps military veterans transfer to unionized construction trades careers – has a special association with North Carolina.

David Porter, appointed the organization’s executive director last year, previously led pipefitting instruction at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune.

North America’s Building Trade Unions (NABTU), representing some 15 trades, and signatory contractor associations, operate the Center for Military Recruitment, Assessment and Veterans Employment (CMRAVE). H2H is built on local connections and relationships, where veterans are assessed and achieve placement in relevant apprenticeship training programs.

“The program is designed to help military service members successfully transition back into civilian life by offering them the means to secure a quality career in the construction industry,” H2H says in a statement. “Most career opportunities offered by the program are connected to federally-approved apprenticeship training programs.”

“No prior experience is needed; in fact, most successful placements start with virtually no experience in their chosen field.”

Veterans can access GI Bill benefits to supplement their income while they are completing training – but they also are paid full union wages at the appropriate apprenticeship levels – meaning they have a distinctive economic advantage over conventional college or university programs.

In a published interview, Porter said employers and unions are eager to hire veterans because they are well-qualified for construction work.

“It’s the intangibles,” he said. “No matter what their discipline level, when they signed up for the military it was engrained into them over however many years to do what you’re told, not just to blow tasks off, and to have that work ethic. That has primed them to be more trainable.”

More information is available at https://careers.helmetstohardhats.org.

“Another advantage is the fact that they have been working in environments that are uncomfortable and rigorous,” Porter said. “They’re accustomed to getting sweaty and dirty. The physicality of construction is too much for a lot of people. It’s not meant for everyone, but people that could cut it in the military, obviously it can be a good option for them.”

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