Workforce Development

From Helmets to Hardhats

Program gives military veterans opportunities in the construction trades.

Since 2007, the New Jersey Building & Construction Trades Council has administered the NJ Helmets to Hardhats program, which recruits and provides skilled training for veterans –  servicemen and servicewomen – who are in search of a rewarding career in the union building trades. Working with every branch of the military, including Marines, Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, National Guard and Reservists, the program has registered more than 3,000 participants and placed more than 1,000 in state-of-the-art apprenticeship programs with one of the many partnering union trades. 

NJ Helmets to Hardhats has two strategic goals: to place transitioning military personnel in family-sustaining careers and, at the same time, address the building and construction industry’s need for better prepared apprentices and journeymen. 

The primary focus is to advance participant entry into an apprenticeship program best fitting their interests and skills while simultaneously filling the need for qualified tradespeople. An apprenticeship in the building trades is a combination of training and education, which produces highly skilled workers who meet the standards of the individual trades. Evolved over periods of training apprentices, apprenticeship has come to be a controlled and structured institution of learning. The first component is an on-the-job training experience where the participant can get a real feel for the kind of work he or she will be doing. The second component of an apprenticeship is classroom training; educational work that coordinates with the on-the-job component.     

Military training, experience, leadership and honorable discharge status are considered the criteria to serve as candidate pre-screening. The program’s target population is likely to already possess some of the technical knowledge and skills used in the trades, as well as the discipline, dependability, trainability and teamwork that make them viable apprentice candidates.  Regardless of technical skill level, the importance of these personal characteristics in the application process cannot be understated.  

New Jersey’s building and construction industry is always in need of quality applicants for their apprenticeship programs. Once enrolled into the program, participants are given career guidance in the building trades. Upon completion of the program, participants will have received the necessary training and assistance to successfully navigate the recruitment process with their desired trade. Interview coaching and workforce readiness training is essential for preparing a participant for what he or she can expect when entering ainterview with one of the trades and while on the job. 

With funding from the State Department of Labor and Workforce Development, the NJ Helmets to Hardhats program has consistently been recognized as one of the most successful in the nation, while working diligently with various military organizations to build a program that has become a staple for New Jersey’s military personnel. It was awarded a VFW bronze medal for excellence in 2013 for the special emphasis it places on targeting women and minority applicants.  

NJ Helmets to Hardhats takes great pride working with veterans, servicemen and women who have made sacrifices many others are not willing to make, and believe they deserve an invaluable career and to become productive citizens.  

About the Author  

Chris DiMeo is a program coordinator for the NJ Helmets to Hardhats program. at the New Jersey Building & Construction Trades Council.

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