Support the troops by hiring them
November 8, 2005
“Support our troops.” An easy message to send, but one that requires dedication and innovation to act upon. So on this Veterans’ Day, we should all consider taking the next step beyond displaying a bumper sticker or wearing a wristband. Reuters wire service reported in August that the number of American veterans collecting unemployment insurance nearly doubled during the past three years. At that time, there were nearly 30,000 vets throughout the nation requesting unemployment aid. The same story quoted veterans groups as saying military personnel fresh from active duty have few job prospects when they return home. That’s because the training and licensing acquired while in the military doesn’t necessarily translate into the civilian work force. Business owners, especially those of us in Northern California’s building industry, have a terrific opportunity to help veterans. We all know that thousands of our service men and women remain on duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. When these veterans return home – hopefully soon – those leaving the service are going to need a strategy for restarting civilian careers. One national effort to connect veterans with trade careers has been under way since 2002. Called Helmets to Hardhats, this nonprofit organization allows veterans to enter the construction and building industry using skills obtained while serving our country. It receives funding from the U.S. Department of Defense and operates as an online link between veterans and employers at http://www.helmetstohardhats.org. Helmets to Hardhats has referred more than 26,000 transitioning vets into career opportunities as carpenters, electricians, equipment operators and in many other construction trade specialties during the last three years. But the job of matching jobs to vets is far from done. And with the rapid pace of Northern California’s construction economy, the opportunity to get that job done is a big one. Trade union training programs, such as the Carpenters Training Committee for Northern California, are doing their best to help returning vets bridge the gap between military and civilian job skills. Working with groups such as the Construction Employers’ Association in Northern California, Helmets to Hardhats is successfully accomplishing this task. Through a recent effort by Helmets to Hardhats, training centers are translating military training credits into their own credits, enabling vets to get a head start on receiving certification that qualifies them for construction jobs out in the field.Construction jobs in particular are an appealing option to many vets. There are the good pay and quality benefits that come with construction careers. There is also the fact that many vets value physical fitness, a sought-after quality in a demanding industry such as construction. But there’s one quality especially that sets veterans apart. If Nov. 11 carries real meaning for you, you already know what that quality is – dedication That’s something valued by every employer in any industry. This Veterans’ Day gives everyone an opportunity to remember the sacrifices made by our men and women in uniform. It gives everyone a voice in showing our nation’s support for our troops. But for employers, especially those of us in the construction industry, the spirit of Veterans’ Day gives us an opportunity to act. Support our troops – and hire our troops when they return. Tim Marsh is president of Harris Construction Co. Inc., a member of the Construction Employers’ Association in Northern California. CEA is comprised of approximately 100 of the premier unionized contractors who perform building construction work in Northern California.