Helmets to Hardhats is a national program that connects transitioning active-duty and reserve-component members with training and employment opportunities with the construction industry.
The statewide direct-entry program provides a common agreement between Building and Construction Trades, Joint Apprenticeship Training Councils, locals (at their discretion) and Helmets to Hardhat leaders to support candidates in that state. The program allows candidates to start construction careers soon after they apply, and also gives them credit for military training and experience.
The intent of the program is to help those with military experience get hired in civilian construction trades that the program's organizers claim are facing a critical labor shortage.
The center launched Helmets to Hardhats in January, 2003, after a $3.4 million appropriation for the pilot program was approved by Congress as part of the 2003 Defense Appropriations Act.
The program emphasizes jobs that offer higher than average wages and benefits. A recent national survey indicates that union workers earn an average of $4.08 more per hour than do other construction workers.
It is also a way for the construction industry to find new workers who have already acquired the discipline and dependability as well as the leadership skills and the safety training that is stressed by the military.
Direct entry programs exist in 22 states: California, Indiana, Ohio, Connecticut, West Virginia, Illinois, Washington, Nebraska, Rhode Island, Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont, Virginia, Missouri, Maine, Kentucky, Tennessee, Massachusetts, Delaware, Hawaii, Wisconsin and New Jersey.
Kristina Reinholtz of Las Vegas, Nev., registered with the program after leaving the Army because of a knee accident.
“When I was getting ready to leave, I knew that I had to find another career that I could count on,” she said. “I did not want a dead-end job. I needed a career that would enable me to support my family.”
Knowing she enjoyed working with her hands, Reinholtz applied for a carpentry position through Helmets to Hardhats, and was hired almost immediately.
“I appreciate that I had the opportunity to get into not just a job, but a great career,” she said.
California is the most recent state to join the direct-entry program, when enrolled in the statewide direct-entry program on July 20.
"The building and construction industry in California is booming and we need as many trained and disciplined workers as possible to keep up with all the growth,” said California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who signed the proclamation with retired Maj. Gen. Matthew Caulfield, executive director for Helmets to Hardhats.
“By supporting the Helmets to Hardhats program, we are helping our returning veterans find high-quality careers. This program puts our veterans at the top of the list to enter qualified apprenticeship programs in fifteen trades and eight contractor associations. This is a great partnership between the building trades and our armed forces and veterans," said Schwarzenegger.
More than 16,000 military candidates have registered in California for the Helmets to Hardhats program, and 1,482 employers and local trade unions have posted 3,356 career opportunities on the Helmets to Hardhats Web site.
Military personnel interested in a construction career should visit www.helmetstohardhats.org, or call (866) 741-6210.