Construction industry helping Canadian veterans transition to civilian life through Helmets to Hardhats program

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Ontario Construction Report staff writer

Transitioning back into civilian life after a career in the Canadian Armed Forces brings unique challenges, and the Carpenters’ District Council of Ontario (CDCO) is helping to make it a little easier by connecting veterans interested in becoming carpenters.

In fact, Helmets to Hardhats Canada was founded eight years ago to specifically help veterans and serving reservists transition into stable careers in Canada’s building and construction trades. The program offers employment counselling, resume help and referrals to those seeking a new opportunity as they transition to civilian life.”

About Helmets to Hardhats Canada

CDCO president Mike Yorke says veterans bring important skills to the trade, including discipline, attention to detail, strong work ethic and positive attitudes.

“Veterans have an easier time fitting into our trade, whether it’s formwork, scaffolding or general carpentry,” he said. “They are all about teamwork.”

The program has continued through the pandemic and York says it will be more important than ever as the economic recovery happens across Ontario and Canada.

All 14 Canadian building unions representing over 61 various occupations participate in the program along with their employer counterparts across Canada.

Major industrial owners across the country support Helmets to Hardhats and also post opportunities on a secure website for positions outside of construction industry apprenticeship systems such as security, administration, logistics, schedulers, estimators etc.

Helmets to Hardhats also reaches out to homeless veterans to make them aware of what the program has to offer and works with active reservists and senior cadets.

To meet the growing demand, the CDCO now has a fulltime coordinator working with veterans.

Veterans in the Helmets to Hardhats program say it brings a sense of relief and pride, due to the job security, steady pay and other benefits that construction trades offer.

“H2H is very important to veterans when they decide to transition out of the military,” said Joe Maloney,” founder of the Canadian Helmets to Hardhats and executive director, Helmets to Hardhats.

“When one is in the military there clothing, food, lodging is all taken care of and once they leave and enter the private sector they are on their own.

“This where H2H assists in connecting an interested veteran with a particular trade of interest. It can be very difficult for someone with no knowledge of how to enter a trade to start the process.”

Helmets to Hardhats removes all barriers and makes the proper connections for the veteran and the trade of interest. Representatives meet with veterans before they leave the service and help set them up with opportunities in their chosen location.

Since the inception of H2H in Canada in 2012, more than 1,000 veterans have been successfully placed into construction industry opportunities nationwide. No complaints have been filed.

“The intent then and now is to offer construction industry opportunities normally via an apprenticeship program for transitioning veterans,” Maloney explained.

“It is actually a win-win-win situation. These brave men and women who have served their country win by securing a stable, sound second career- the industry wins by securing a reliable, well trained individual, the government wins by not having to try and assist the veteran into other employment opportunities.”

Recognition by the industry of their previous military service and proper trades training goes a long way to easing their transition.

Carpenters have been there since day one.

“Many of the individuals that are transitioning out of te military come in with specific training and it is a very stress free pain free meshing of the skills they have that can be adapted to work in the construction industry,” Yorke said.

From the trade unions and the employers’ perspective, the experience has been overwhelmingly positive. Numerous unions, carpenters included are willing to fund the not-for-profit organization and continue outreach, especially considering the post-COVID economy.

“When you get somebody from the Military, you’re getting a good quality individual who is ready, willing and able to go to work,” Maloney said.

Helmets to Hardhats recently announced a new strategic partnership with Veterans Emergency Transition Services (VETS Canada) that will result in improved conditions for at risk and homeless veterans.

“H2H is looking forward to this very positive partnership with the intent of helping some very worthy people,” Maloney said. “We want to make sure that any and all Veterans are aware of what is available through Helmets to Hardhats and no veteran is left behind.”

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